Her Interactive CEO Interview

Her Interactive President and CEO, Megan Gaiser, was gracious enough to accept an e-mail interview request.  You will get her take on Nancy Drew, Her Interactive, women in video games, digital distribution, social networking and much more.

Adam:

How did Her Interactive get started?  Where did the idea for a point-and-click Nancy Drew adventure game come from?

From the very beginning, we recognized that girls want to be challenged, entertained and engaged with high quality, sophisticated video game play.  They appreciate smart, strong characters they can relate to.  We chose the point and click adventure game style because it enables exploration and discovery opportunities to play the game at your own pace. We also made the decision early on to enable the player to be Nancy Drew, so the player gets to experience what it is to be brilliant.  We were fortunate to align with Simon & Schuster and the Nancy Drew brand early on.  We’ve remained committed to creating high-quality entertainment that not only entertains, but inspires, teaches and ignites the imagination.  We also have been very fortunate to attract a very smart, creative and eclectic team.  We as a team have mastered the art of creative collaboration to make the very best games through thoughtful and creative approach and solution-oriented philosophy. We’ve evolved over the years, but we’ve never strayed from our core expertise and values.

Adam:

What are some of the successes and failures you learned from in developing the Nancy Drew series?

Megan:

Successes – Won 23 Parent’s Choice Gold Medal awards, pioneered games targeted towards females, learned the retail market and became successful retail publishers, established a unique niche in the mystery category, targeted an underserved market of girls, established ourselves as the #1 PC Adventure Franchise in units outselling Harry Potter, Myst and Lord of the Rings for six consecutive years.

Learning- With our Wii game, we learned that a straight port with only minor redesign will not result in a great game. We will port/re-design games moving forward to ensure a better result in the future.

Adam:

What is the toughest aspect of developing a series of games like Nancy Drew?

Megan:

After 14 years with this series, we have a well-oiled machine so to speak. Our team has mastered the art of creative collaboration so it works well. Our opportunity is to cleverly adjust the way we create these games to respond to the current price and business model changes.
Adam:

How do you keep the ideas fresh for a series with 23 games released since 1998?

Megan:

We use the Nancy Drew books as inspiration and we have an extremely talented creative staff who helps develop story lines and characters.  For example, with just launched our first “gamebook” for the Apple iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch called Nancy Drew Mobile Mysteries: Shadow Ranch.   We used the Nancy Drew book, The Secret at Shadow Ranch for setting the story, but came up with the story line ourselves. Part game, part book, we have created a new way of telling a story in a more immersive and interactive way. Play the Story!

Adam:

Did you anticipate the success the Nancy Drew games have had over the years?

Megan:

Nancy Drew is an iconic heroine. Ask any successful woman who she was inspired by and chances are Nancy Drew will be among those mentioned.  I talk to many women and when I say the name Nancy Drew, they usually first bow down out of respect for her and then go on to tell me how she was pivotal in making them a success. Nancy Drew has got such staying power and that plucky never-give-up attitude.  That, coupled with a mystery format, delivers a winning formula. She’s been a success in print – more than 100 million books sold — and on the computer screen. We have sold 8.7 M games to date.


Adam:

Nancy Drew series is aimed at teenage girls and young women.  What is your reaction when you hear customers outside of your target audience have fun with Nancy Drew games? 

Megan:

We love it!  Her Interactive is truly blessed to hear from fans literally every day. Those who love mysteries and love Nancy Drew and understand why she is still such an inspiring role model are always in touch with us and us with them via many routes – Facebook, Twitter, email, letters, and events.  More and more we are hearing from young boys who love the mystery aspect and dads who love that there is a positive role model in video games.

Adam:

Tell us about your relationship with the numerous digital distributors like Steam and Direct2Drive.  

Megan:

We are always looking for additional distribution points for our games and we are pleased to include Steam and Direct2Drive as two valued partners.

Adam:

How do you feel about the digital distribution platform as a whole?

Megan:

We love all distribution platforms.  The more distribution points the better. This allows us to broaden our customer base in addition to our retail channels.

Adam:

In 1998 when you released your first Nancy Drew title, Secrets Can Kill, what was the overall response from the gaming community?  Were there any adverse reactions to having a female character in the lead role?

Megan:

The response was overwhelmingly positive. Many told us they were thrilled and that it was about time to have a strong, resourceful, gutsy role model like Nancy Drew.

Adam:

Most PC game companies seem to have stopped the practice of creating PC demos.  Why do you think that is?  How difficult is it to create demos for a Nancy Drew release?

Megan:

We believe in creating demos for each game to give our customers a taste of each game, like an appetizer before dinner. They are not that difficult to create.

Adam:

Tell us about being a publisher as well as a developer for Nancy Drew.

Megan:

We first published on Amazon because the publishers refused to put our games on retail shelves because they didn’t believe there was a market for girls in videogames. In fact, they told us girls were computer phobic and would never play videogames.  So, we learned how to publish on Amazon. The sales were so good that those same publishers came back to do a retail deal. The NYT dubbed us the UnBarbie of computer games. Since then we’ve sold around 8.7 M games.

Adam:

You re-released the first Nancy Drew game, Secrets Can Kill, with updated graphics, a new ending, enhanced UI and better compatibly for newer systems.  Are you going to be giving the same treatment to older Nancy Drew games?  What prompted you to do this?

Megan:

We may consider giving this same treatment to other older titles in our catalogue.  However, “Secrets Can Kill” was re-mastered specifically in celebration of Nancy Drew’s 80th Anniversary.

Adam:

How important is it to have access to online forums and social networking sites for instant feedback on your games?

Megan:

Our fans are our lifeblood.  They range from nine to 99 years young.   Our strongest age groups are 11-16 and 25-45.  Females of all ages play together – girlfriends, moms and daughters, grandmothers and granddaughters.  For kids, they get to experience what it’s like to be an adult, and for an adult, they get to be kids again.  We intimately connected with our 120,000 fans on our message board, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook channels.

Enthusiasts always want to know more about the next game, so these channels are a great way to distribute that information while interacting with our fans.  And finally, we want to interact with our fans beyond just the game experience and to become part of their daily lives. Nancy Drew to our fans is more than just a game; it’s a way of life.

Adam:

Do you take any stock from those who review Nancy Drew professionally?

Megan:

Sure. We are always interested in gaining insights into how we can improve our games, where possible. We also listen to customer feedback as well.  And we are constantly using our internal creative judgment to fine tune every aspect of the games . We as a team are all very committed to quality.

Adam:

Are there any plans to create more games based on The Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew Dossier series? 

Megan:

Not at this time but we are always looking to extend the Nancy Drew brand via a new series and on different platforms so stay tuned!

Adam:

For those who are reading about Her Interactive for the first time, is there anything else you would like to add outside of what we have already covered?

Megan:

What we at Her interactive are proud that our games inspire and exhalt the imagination through story, gameplay cultural discovery, historical references and puzzles. Many American women will tell you that they’ve been influenced by Nancy Drew.  As a positive role that is gutsy, smart, and resourceful and, in the end, she always wins. What’s not to like? For example, the three female Supreme Court justices have mentioned how they were inspired by Nancy Drew as children. Other high profile women who gained inspiration from Nancy Drew are Barbara Walters, Laura Bush, Oprah Winfrey, Barbara Streisand, Mary Higgins Clark, Sara Paretsky and others.  So, you can see that as Nancy Drew turns 80 this year, she remains a relevant icon. She also may well be the longest-running character appearing in video games!

Once again, I would like to thank Megan for taking time out of her busy schedule to give us a glimpse of the inner workings of Her Interactive.

You can find more information on the Nancy Drew series on the official site as well as a look at their 24th PC release, The Captive Curse.

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