Habbo hotel came to be due to the experiments of two Finnish guys, Aapo Kyrölä (habbo alias: Kyrpov) and Sampo Karjalainen (habbo alias: Apparatus) - . They met eachother working at ‘To the Point’, a Finnish IT company. Purely a free-time project, they created ‘Mobiles Disco’, for the befriended Finnish (rap)band ‘Mobiles’, in 1999. You could create a character, chat at the bar, act out on the dancefloor. A success, the originally Finnish rooms were swamped with foreigners, so they had to create a seperate international version. Mobiles was online November 1999 - February 2002.
Based on this success they (were invited to) start(ed) working at Taivas (Ego Taivas MediaLab, oy). There they developed an online game, Lumisota or ‘SnowWar’. Lumisota was launched in February 2000. It served as a test for commercial usage, since the players could increase the effectiveness of their snowballs by buying extra force with text messages” (Habbo fact sheet, May 2006). A failed (but educational) experiment, says Sulka Haro, Habbo’s ‘lead concept designer’, btw: “(…)it was the first place with functional items for sale. And we learned a lesson. It backfired. People hate when you can buy functional items.”¹
Time to get the concept out on a wider scale, Taivas figured a seperate company was needed, and thus Sulake² was founded (our company profile is here). Which resulted, August 2000, in what is now known as Habbo Hotel Finland, but then was called ‘Hotelli Kultakala’ (Hotel Goldfish) and part of a ‘portal’ page of an internetprovider (Kolumbus, later on Elisa, along with Taivas one of major investers in Sulake) - .
The early Sulake website listed a couple of products. Next to Hotelli Kultakala, Lumisota and the FUSE technology it also listed an independent chat for a while, ‘MChat’… not all that got planned, just only one of few released. Anyway, while pre-decessors clearly had an effect on Habbo, you can find all products Sulake ever had in its portfolio in our Attic.
Sampo Karjalainen: “Ever since our first Mobiles Disco application, we believed this was a new kind of thing to put on a web browser and that there would be people out there who might be interested in this kind of thing. (…) To begin with, we tried to create the first versions of Mobiles Disco and Hotelli Kultakala for users like ourselves, but the teenagers took them over.”³
¹ Austin Game Developers Conference talk, “Fostering Open-Ended Play: Unleashing the Creative Community”, September 6, 2007.
² ‘Sulake’ is the Finnish word for FUSE, also the name they gave the technology which drove early Habbo Hotel, which was developed by both Fins. Sampo Karjalainen these days is ‘Chief Creative Officer’ at Sulake, Aapo Kyrölä is former Managing Director, mentioned as ‘Board Member’ later on, apparently ‘Chief Scientist Officer’ his official title. His role only lately got a little more visible at the introduction of Bobba Bar, developing new services.
³ “Revelations. The 11 years of Taivas”, 2007.