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Sulake said it is diving into the nonfungible token (NFT) market with NFT avatars for its online community of Habbo players.
The players of Habbo, also known as Habbo Hotel, have been a loyal bunch over the past 21 years. The community debuted during the virtual world craze, and it has had hundreds of millions of players over time. Now the developer Sulake in Helsinki is owned by Dutch digital entertainment firm Azerion. Habbo has 850,000 monthly active players.
Sulake is preparing to give away 1,000 Habbo Avatars for free to the wider Habbo community to share the success of its NFT avatar project with the fans. These randomly generated avatars are part of a collection consisting of more than 10,000 NFTs Sulake launched in September, which sold out in 26 hours. The giveaway has an estimated value of $1.1 million, based on the latest pricing.
Mika Timonen, leader game designer on the Habbo NFT project, said in an interview that the company wants to give the community a chance to have a stake in the Habbo avatar assets.
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Sulake is a social entertainment company focused on providing a safe and fun online service for self-expression through its games, Habbo and Hotel Hideaway. Timonen jumped on the NFT craze as it became hot.
“I didn’t really know much about NFTs before last spring,” he said. “When the NBA Top Shot adoptions became big deals. So I started researching NFTs at that point and my CEO started talking about them as well. And we started thinking about what we can do. I’ve been a collector all of my life. We started with Hotel Hideaway and then moved to Habbo as a better fit.”
Not many traditional game companies have moved into NFTs yet, as gamers have been divided, with some expressing concern about the environmental costs related to NFTs, which can use wasteful computing resources for mining related to the blockchain, the transparent and secure digital ledger. NFTs, however, can enable unique digital ownership and new business models that benefit both game developers and gamers.
Sulake has entered into partnership with Offsetra, which measures the carbon emissions from the NFT minting transactions and then offsets these emissions through a variety of ecological initiatives and programs, such as Bull Run Forest Carbon and Agrocortex REDD Project.
“Habbo is an avatar based game, and the profile picture projects are a natural fit for the NFTs,” Timonen said. “We bounced around ideas and decided to do it.”
One reason to do it was to make players feel like rockstars, he said, because they got exclusive access to 11,600 NFT avatars that were unique to the game and could not be duplicated. Players can also earn their VIP status through activity in the game.
While Habbo seems like a kids game, about 75% of the player base is over 18 years old, and so these are the fans who understand NFTs and have been tracking them. And they’re excited about the opportunity, Timonen said.
The company is looking into a variety of sidechains like Immutable X that can sidestep the fees and carbon footprint as well as speed up transactions.
Personally, Timonen has been disappointed in his experience with online games.
“I’ve spent tens of thousands of euros on mobile games like Hearthstone, and when I quit the game, I got nothing,” he said. “That money is going. That’s why I believe in digital ownership.”
Timonen said the company admires the work being done with NFT games by The Sandbox, which is owned by Animoca Brands. And he likes the notion of using NFT avatars to travel between games, though that isn’t happening anytime soon.
“I see NFTs being the next big thing in mobile games, though perhaps not for the biggest brands yet,” said Timonen.
Over time, integrating NFTs into gameplay will get more interesting over time, Timonen said. While it’s a big investment, he said, “I honestly believe that it’s worth it.”
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