News, research and discussion on virtual goods, currencies and economies globally.

Habbo introduces a dual currency virtual economy model (updated with pictures)

Bubbles, a "rental"Bubbles, a “rental”Sulka Haro, Lead Concept Designer of Habbo, informs us that Sulake is introducing a dual currency virtual economy model for Habbo:

As of today, Habbo is a dual currency economy. Credits are bought and used to purchase persistent value, and you can earn Pixels by doing Achievements and just hanging around online. We’re piloting the change in UK, and if it’s working fine, the other countries will get it at some point in the future (as usual).

More details and screenshots below.



Torch, a "special effect"Torch, a “special effect” Habbo Credits continue to be a “cash-money” obtainable with real money. Pixels are a new currency earned through participation and gameplay. True to the dual currency model, the set of items that can be purchased using Pixels is different from the set of items purchasable with Credits. Sulka notes that while Credits are exchangeable between users, Pixels are not yet so. It will be extremely interesting to see how the model works for Habbo and its 10 million monthy visitors.

Interestingly, the items that are purchasable with Pixels have a limited lifetime. Items currently available in the “Pixel shop” are titled “Rentals” and “Special effects”, and all expire in one hour. Cash items in Habbo continue to last indefinitely. This is the opposite of e.g. MapleStory, where cash items have a limited duration, usually 90 days, and items earned through gameplay often last indefinitely.

The Pixel shop also allows a very small selection of cash items to be purchased at a discount using a combination of Pixels and Credits.

Minibar, a Pixel discount itemMinibar, a Pixel discount item Last year, Sulake introduced Ecotron, a “recycling” machine that Habbo users can use to convert 20-60 old items to one new item, effectively siphoning otherwise indestructable cash items out of circulation.

For some discussion on the dual currency model in Korean games, see Oh, Gyuhwan and Ryu Taiyoung (2007): Game Design on Item-selling Based Payment Model in Korean Online Games.

It may also be interesting to compare the dual currency model with what appears to be a triple-currency model in Whirled.

RL dual economies

This development brings to my mind the situation in the former Eastern Block countries in Europe, where along the national currency (eg. Zloty in Poland) which was usable in “normal” stores, foreign currency (Dollars) was used in parallel in designated stores and services. As the methods of obtaining either currency were different (you had to have contacts, or special arrangements, to get dollars), this obviously led to situation where the one was vastly overappreciated in regards to the other, and all the related problems. Dollars were the token that you are a Somebody, and no amount of the local currency could buy you those items that were most coveted – Coca cola (vs. Pepsi), foreign chocolate (vs. local sweets), brand clothes (vs. clones).

Any thoughts on this comparison?


Ad Yoe

Interesting — the point about a currency being able to have symbolic value besides its exchange value is something that we probably forget a lot in today’s world, but that might be pertinent in virtual currencies.

I wonder, though:

no amount of the local currency could buy you those items that were most coveted

Wouldn’t there be some unofficial exchange rate between Dollars and e.g. Zloty that would make such purchases possible?

If Sulake enables users to exchange Pixels among each other, it will create a similar unofficial exchange rate between Pixels and Credits, so perhaps we could learn something from that?

Q&A: Sulka Haro on Habbo’s Dual Currency System

can be found Here and some my of thoughts on the issue in general here.