Research on Habbo Hotel: The Ugly Duckling

New Japanese furniture in Habbo Hotel Nicolas Nova over at Terra Nova blogs about an interview of Sulka Haro, a lead designer for Habbo Hotel. Habbo Hotel is a virtual world in the same league of popularity with World of Warcraft. Using the Linden definition, Habbo Hotel has some 80 million “Residents”, far outclassing Second Life. Where, therefore, is the research, asks Nicolas Nova.

My HIIT colleague Mikael Johnson has collected an extensive Habbo data consisting of interviews, surveys and fansite records during the past few years. He’s currently writing his dissertation about user-developer dialogue and hasn’t published much about the data yet. Here are a few links though.

Mikael’s Fansites as Sources for User Research: Case Habbo Hotel is more of a methodological paper, but presents some data as well. Another paper has a short segment on user-created content.

I’ve written a article about Habbo Hotel together with Mikael from a sociology of consumption perspective. It’s been in review for ages, however, and I hesitate to put it online. If anyone is interested, I can send a version by email (vili.lehdonvirta ät hiit.fi).

My Master’s thesis also had some twenty pages on HH, mainly describing its history and the economic system. The economy has changed considerably since then, though.

Another thing Nova discusses in his blog post is the boundary nature of Habbo Hotel: it’s not quite a game but not quite a community site either. I guess this is something most virtual worlds have in common. Still, a point worth noting in this direction is that Habbo Hotel is actually part of a larger Habbo concept, which also includes a Cyworldish Habbo Home home page generator with virtual items, and a Pocket Habbo mobile interface with SNS style features. The latter is still in development.

From Nova’s posting, it sounds like Habbo Hotel, with its retro pixel graphics, has been a bit of an ugly duckling among the North American developer and scholar crowd.

P.s. while on the topic of virtual worlds, an upcoming service worth keeping an eye on is Twinity by German developer Metaversum.

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