To the uninitiated, the world of Habbo Hotel looks a lot like a mid-1990s RPG for the SuperNintendo, such as Final Fantasy VI or ChronoTrigger. All three feature rudimentary 3-D graphics; compact, cartoon-like avatars; and a fixed, birds-eye-view and all three are still going strong. While the lower-res versions of the RPGs are making a resurgence on the NintendoDS (after subsequent versions got the full 3-D treatment on more sophisticated platforms like the Playstation), Habbo continues to plug along without seeing any major upgrades to its graphics (at least not to the average user–the shift from Shockwave to Flash technology a few years back didn’t really change the graphic style at all). With an audience that is predominantly female, >60%, and mostly under age 17, it’s clear that that fancy graphics and epic adventures aren’t the only requirements for a successful virtual world.
Comparisons to the two other well-known virtual worlds, World of Warcraft (WoW) and Second Life (SL) are inevitable, but it’s also apparent that they serve entirely different niches. WoW caters mostly to men between 18 and 34, while SL serves a more gender-balanced yet substantially older crowd, averaging 35-49 years old. The Helsinki, Finland-based Habbo continues to thrive with astonishing numbers of players: 170 million in 32 countries with 15 million unique vistors per month-even though users spend substantially less time there per month than they do for other MMOs. The successful integration of a payment system, where players can pay for upgrades to their avatar or apartment space allowed the company to generate $20M in revenue in the last quarter alone.
As interesting as all these factoids are, what is more important is that the enduring success of Habbo means that it will be around for many years to come. As media attention has drifted away from virtual worlds, young players continue to enjoy the ability to easily socialize with others around the world in an interactive 3-D environment. As one commenter to an earlier post on this site made clear, the rumors of the death of virtual worlds are highly exaggerated. On Habbo’s 10th birthday, virtual worlds seem to have officially graduated from the hype phase. Here’s to the longevity of virtual worlds for years to come.