The long-running Habbo franchise gets its latest game, out now on mobile, called Hotel Hideaway (Free), and it’s a social MMO where you get to interact with other hotel denizens on a giant, permanent vacation resort. You can do all sorts of stuff. You can spin the wheel for prizes, you can buy new outfits, get a new hair color, mine for new materials from interdimensional rifts…you know, typical vacation stuff. There’s also a whole gesture system where you can combine different body parts and movements to do different things, like shaking a giant foam fist at other people. The whole game’s a lot about interaction and talking with people, so please don’t be a jerk. This hotel is supposed to be classy, don’t go telling people to die! But, as a social MMO, I guess that’s what people are gonna do.
Now, there’s just one catch: Hotel Hideaway has technically been out on the App Store since 2016. It’s ready for prime time now, and I guess this does mean that the game has an established player base now that it’s ready for the general public. But it does show that the idea of what a “release" is, and what constitutes a “soft launch" are dramatically changing.
This is in line with larger attitudes of a “release" in the grand schemes of things. After all, Fortnite (Free) just ran an invite-only event, and the game is still technically “Early Access" though it’s, uh, making money hand over fist. Friday the 13th is technically in soft launch in the United States. PUBG came out of early access on PC, but it’s still got issues, and is nowhere near content-complete.
Of course, you could also say that “Early Access" is kind of a joke now anyway with games-as-service’s dominance as a model for games. Games are always changing and seeing updates, and what’s really the difference between Hearthstone (Free) and Fortnite or Habbo in their release states other than the label?
Even Hideaway Hotel is going to see some improvements in the near future with the addition of augmented reality modes that we saw at GDC. Truly, in the age of games-as-a-service, when does a game truly ever “release," and when is it “complete?" In this era, are these terms just merely arbitrary words? Perhaps!
It would help if Apple just had an Early Access section the way that Google Play does. Make the apps lightly visible in some form, and available to anyone who’s curious without complicated restrictions. Then, when the developer is ready to make a big deal about it, and think it’s ready for public consumption, they can pull it out of early access and start making a big stink about it. Happens with restaurants, where they might have soft openings where they open but don’t tell a lot of people about it. Still, being “open" for a couple of years like Habbo Hotel Hideaway is perhaps taking things to a ridiculous degree!
Regardless, Hotel Hideaway is now released because Habbo says it is. It’s tough to keep a secret about a game release, but it’s something that people do: maybe they’re involved in something that they don’t necessarily tell the world about, but it might be a big deal to the part of the world they choose to reveal that part of themselves to. Games can do that too, I guess! Habbo Hotel Hideaway is out now, whatever that really, truly means.