Sulake, the Finnish company behind the popular online virtual world Habbo Hotel, said it will take €6 million euros ($7.7 million) from Japanese Movida Group to both set up a Japanese operation and to push its content onto cell phones.
Movida Group is a joint venture between Softbank BB and Asian Groove, an interactive entertainment company, and Sulake is backed by investors like Benchmark Capital, 3i, and Elisa Group. The investment is a step in the company’s plans to replicate the wild success of its online site, which has brought in an astounding 53 million registered users worldwide, to the mobile world.
Wireless domination might not be too hard, given the company already sells Habbo-themed mobile content like wallpaper, ringtones, and games. Sulake did a survey of its Habbo users and the company says 85% of respondents were interested in buying Habbo mobile content–mobile games are by far the most popular.
We have also learnt that the company is working on a mobile Internet site called “Pocket Habbo” that will launch later this summer, which will give cell phone users access to aspects of the Habbo community, including messaging, blogging, and buying and selling Habbo currency. Then in the first quarter of next year the company plans to release a mobile client that will more fully recreate the Habbo web-based experience.
Sulake can stand to make significant money off porting Habbo to cell phones. The company plans to work with handset manufacturers, to preinstall the mobile community, carriers, to boost mobile portal traffic, and other entertainment brands to distribute content wirelessly. A Habbo-themed handset could even be in order–Habbo MVNO? It’s such a good idea that combined with the success of the Internet site, a company exec said Sulake is planning an IPO at the end of next year.
One reason Habbo Hotel will likely be so successful on the mobile, is because its virtual-only animations and avatars, exclude some of the real-world problems associated with a MySpace-style social network. It’s the same thing with Cyworld, Korea’s mostly virtual world, which has also been successful on mobile.
On the other hand Verizon was rumored to have bypassed on the original MySpace mobile deal, because of privacy concerns. Conservative carriers don’t welcome a lot of those hassles, and while MySpace will likely land on the traditional carriers next year, after its exclusive contract with Helio, mobile Habbo will likely already be there.