References recently on blogs and Yahoo Finance News to Habbo. Its a sort of massively multiplayer game, claiming 4 million unique users per month, who have created 30 million play characters. It seems to be designed entirely to extract money from 13-20 year olds, though it is dignified as social software and claims to be a safe moderated environment.

It seems to be free to use, initially. (“It is free to register and check into the Hotel – there are many Habbos who enjoy the service for free. We only charge for extras like gaming elements (diving in the swimming pools), Habbo Club membership and room furnishings (referred to as furni by most Habbos).”)

However, once involved, users are encouraged to pay and keep on paying: “Habbo Credits allow you to decorate your room, buy gifts for your friends, buy Habbo Club or play games like Wobble Squabble”. The Habbo website is full of warnings – “You MUST ALWAYS ask for permission from the bill payer BEFORE buying credits. CREDITS ARE NOT FREE.” – but you can readily see the problems it will cause. As the father of two children in its target age group I find this sort of exploitation offensive.

Sulake is an interactive entertainment company, specialized in developing, publishing and distributing multiplayer online communities and games. Established in 2000, it has more than doubled its annual revenues each year and this growth is expected to continue during 2005.

According to a press release, Sulakes major shareholders are Taivas Group (first prize for uninformative websites), Finnish Telcom Elisa Group, UK VC 3i Group Plc, and the founders of the company Sampo Karjalainen and Aapo Kyrölä as well as CEO Timo Soininen who claims “Our big dream is to create a new type of interactive entertainment brand, rooted in online community.” (No, its to make a lot of money…)

It also seems to have other VC support from investors who “were intrigued by the site because it offers a simple, wacky way for youngsters to socialize and express themselves.”.

Apparently its ambition is to become the next Nokia. (ie a Finnish mega-success). I hope it fails to do so.

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