Sulake, the company behind the popular Habbo Hotel, a virtual world for teenagers with 14,600,000 montly unique visitors, has come out with a new service, Bobba Bar. Bobba Bar is virtual bar where, according to Sulake, you can meet and make friends. And it's not just any virtual bar, it's a virtual bar for 18-year-olds and over, so teenagers stay away.
Clearly, Sulake is going for a new market segment after conquering such a big chunk of the teen market with Habbo Hotel. I'm just not sure if big people will jump on the virtual world in the same way as teenagers have. I'm already realizing I spend way too much time in Facebook for no reason. Compared to wasting time in Facebook, Bobba takes a lot more effort is you plan to waste time there as well and I honestly just don't have any. After all, I have a Twitter to attend to.
Now, in all seriousness, I'm sure there are people who find Bobba to be for them, but I just don't think the number will ever get even close to the ballpark where Habbo Hotel plays in. That said, it might just well be that Sulake is just experimenting without any more expectations than I do regarding Bobba Bar, and if I'd be Sulake I would probably try it out as well given the success of casual games among adults. Sulake also touts the possibility to data people in the virtual bar, but its bit of a stretch to go there just to hit girls. Also, not surprisingly, in the near future Sulake plans to provide virtual content purchases inside Bobba Bar, so the business model is clearly there as well.
The Finnish social gaming firm Ironstar Helsinki has announced appointing a new CEO Tiina Zilliacus and expanding its platform reach to Facebook. Ironstar Helsinki runs a social gaming world MoiPal, which up until now has been available on the web and as a downloadable mobile application. MoiPal has currently 200.000 registered users in Finland along some international ones, and is now looking to accelerate the international growth.
Sulake, the Finnish company behind the successful Habbo Hotel, has opened up Bobba to public beta. Bobba is a mobile only virtual world and is in very early stages of adoption. I was the 113th registered user on the site. This is something we heard of a while back with Sulake's report on their 2008 profit.
MoiPal, a Finland based social gaming virtual world by Ironstar Helsinki, has introduced widgets for music artists to sell MoiPal virtual goods to the virtual world users. MoiPal is not a localized virtual world like Habbo, which has started their community building from scratch in each new country. Instead MoiPal aims to create a common space where all nationalities mix and thus make the world seem more lively. MoiPal is also mainly intented to be played via mobile phones. According to MoiPal CEO, Joakim Achrén, focusing on mobile phones instead of the browser creates stickiness and users tend to come back much more often.
MoiPal has been working on virtual goods partnership all along 2008. These have mainly been with record labels and Finnish music artists, including Lovex, Hanoi Rocks and Lordi. What this means in practice is that the partnering artists have seen a MoiPal character creation widget appear on their website. If a MoiPal charater has been created through one of these websites, the character that has been created have been able to get virtual clothes and a look that resembles the one of the artist who's website is in question.
Through the partnership the artists get visibility in MoiPal virtual world when characters walk around in t-shirts and clothes that carry the artist logo and name. Artists can also perform a virtual concerts in MoiPal City, which is the center of the MoiPal virtual world. Currently Lordi, a Finnish heavy artist, is actively present in MoiPal and interacting with the users.
The latest development is selling virtual goods via a widget that sits on an artist website. MoiPal has confirmed its first deal that was done with EMI and EMI's up-and-coming new artist, Haloo Helsinki. With a Premium SMS message the users can buy their character a full blown Haloo Helsinki costume set. In addition to the 50/50 revenue share the record label can get visibility to their new acts.
MoiPal is currently in talks with all the major record labels for similar kind of deals. The virtual goods store -widget can also be placed on an artist MySpace profile page via OpenSocial that MySpace has implemented. This has also been experimented with two Finnish bands, namely Stigg Dogg and Notkea Rotta.
MoiPal has currently over 100,000 users. The service was launched in October 2007 and aim to hit over one million user mark by the end of 2009. The two biggest methods in building the virtual world for MoiPal are Facebook apps, of which they already have all together three, and getting visibility in artists' websites. Currently most of the new users come from South-East Asia. The service grows with approximately 600 new users a day.
If you feel a sudden urge to try out the service (here), by writing moilei or snoukka in the promotional code field ArcticStartup readers will get a free virtual t-shirt for their MoiPal character. Go play!
According to TechCrunch UK (blog post here) Muxlim, the Finnish born Muslim social network, is launching a virtual world especially Muslims in mind. This will be much like the other virtual worlds we are familiar with such as The Second Life apart from the Muslim specific features.
TechCrunch UK reports:
The idea is that something tailored to the Muslim world would be allowed through the IP-blocks of countries like United Arab Emirates which currently stops access to virtual worlds and online games considered unsuitable or offensive to Muslim culture. The virtual world is said to launch in 4-6 weeks
The revenue model will be VIP accounts, virtual gifts, virtual furniture/clothes, themes/styles, profile applications, advertising, branded communities and physical merchandise like t-shirts.
Muxlim has been very active lately. In addition to the new virtual world, they are planning to open an office in the UK and a big UK launch event at the end of January 2009 to go along with that.
If you look at the TechCrunch UK comments it clearly shows that religion is much more sensitive topic in the UK than it is over here in the Nordics and Baltics. Very few, if any, of the comments actually deal with the product itself, but rather with the fact that the virtual world is for Muslims. Mike Butcher, the Editor of TechCruch UK, decided to shut down the comments since the blog post created so many racist comments. I have not seen such negative approach here in the Nordics or Baltics even though Muxlim has been in the headlines quite a bit. It seems that UK has much more to learn from us than just financial regulation.
Edit: Here's also Wired's take on the Muxlim virtual world.
3D Technologies R&D, an Estonian Tartu-based startup founded in 2006, is developing an ultralight XML-like standard for better showing interactive 3D and 2D content on the web than is possible with HTML. The cross-platform standard is called 3DMLW – Three Dimensional Markup Language for Web, which is licensed under GPL. The company also provides also an independent plug-in for web browsers to display 3DMLW.
The mission of the company is nothing less ambitious than to create de facto standard for displaying 3D-content on the web. The stated goals are 1) to offer at least as good 2-dimensional content and animation presentation as Macromedia Flash does; 2) to let users easily develop dynamic content and use 3DMLW in different content management systems and web portals; and 3) to support most common 3D-model formats, videos, music and animation.
The firm has completed beta version of the 3DMLW editor Quantum Hog, which is now available for download. With the editor one should be able to create 3D models and animations as easily as creating HTML documents.
3D Technologies R&D belives in the future more than 50 % of the web content will be shown in three dimensional format, as also virtual communities are getting more and more popular. In the near future 3D Technologies R&D is planning to introduce a possibility for other companies to make their virtual worlds even more interesting and interactive for their customers by using 3D content.
According to TigerPrises.com, Owner Kaspar Koov comments it will be easy to integrate the content with other systems like CMS’s, forum-scripts, news portals, and even CRM, and Business Intelligence tools or other applications. Users won't have to know how to create 3D models, but can just take the existing models and use them on the web. The company has created a virtual office for Fujitsu Services Estonia. In essence that is a virtual intranet, connected with other company systems, allowing the users to walk around, communicate with colleagues, and see what tasks they are working on.
3D Technologies R&D is targeting the global market, seeing the US, Germany, and China as the three main regions of interest currently. 3D Technologies R&D is looking for venture capital from the US to make the expansion possible.
I had lunch today with ironstar helsinki's Joakim Achrén. Joakim is the CEO and they are building a cross platform virtual world that is mainly played on the mobile - it's called MoiPal. Ironstar helsinki is 9 men strong and they are located in Helsinki.
MoiPal has all the usual aspects of a social gaming application, profiles, personalisable rooms and characters, a facebook like profile page (to link to), virtual currency and lots more. Joakim managed to really surprise me how smooth the character moved on the mobile - no buggines at all. MoiPal could be described as a mixture of Facebook and Tamagotchi (I'd add Sims). The software runs on Java and they have three different versions for different phones.
You take care of your character by feeding her, washing her, exercising, etc to keep all the personal attributes in top notch condition. They've also put a lot of effort into making the whole system scalable. For example, you can do lots of things with the character in her own room without being connected online hence not accumulating a lot of data costs. Also, all the characters are clothable in different types of clothes available for purchase in the online shop. At the moment they have a deals with Warner music for example to cloth the characters in different band attire.
We also talked about the fact that where they see their focus geographically. Middle East, Russia and Far East Asia seem to interest them, which in my opinion is a very good call. There is a lot more competition in Asia, but their mobile usage is on a totally different level.
I was really impressed in the product, being a veteran of the gaming industry. I'm sure they will have lots of success with it.