Her Interactive’s Nancy Drew Games Help Solve the Mystery of Girl Gamers

6/8/09

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the difficult leap and published games on its own, distributing them through Amazon.com, which was relatively new but rapidly growing.

That first Nancy Drew title has sold 30,000 copies, and after a brief run with a professional publisher, Gaiser has published all of the company’s products in-house. “It was so absurd, so crazy, not to let the game be published because of the prejudice that girls don’t like video games,” Gaiser says.

Her Interactive now develops two games in its flagship Nancy Drew Adventure series every year, the last four of which were number one or two of the best-selling PC games in North America when released.  It also recently started a new Nancy Drew series for more casual game-playing, has adapted one of its recent adventure games for the Nintendo Wii, and is developing a Hardy Boys (allies and guest stars in several Nancy Drew games and books) Nintendo DS game.

Despite differing platforms and genres, Gaiser says she tries to make every game true to the nature and style of the original books. “I was a fan of Nancy Drew growing up. She’s a timeless role model and represents a lot of characteristics [girls] aspire to,” she says. For the games, this means that while the graphics have evolved and new features like mini-games have been added, the structure and style remain stable. “We try to preserve the integrity of the Nancy Drew brand,” she says.

Distribution methods for the games have progressed so that they can be downloaded straight to a computer either from the company’s website or other portals. This will be one way the next Nancy Drew game, Ransom of the Seven Ships, will be sold when it is released July 14th (see below right).
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To make sure it stays competitive, Her Interactive tests its games with an advisory board of 70 females ranging in age from 10 to 80, Gaiser says. Frequently, mothers buy a game for their daughters, try it for themselves, and enjoy it enough to share it with their own mothers. Gaiser has heard from grandmothers who say they connect with their granddaughters through the game because of their shared love of Nancy Drew. Not that the male market is ignored—between eight and ten percent of the company’s customers are boys.

Gaiser says she has continuing plans for the expansion of the company, both in developing new games and in distributing them overseas. French and Russian versions of some of the games already exist, and future games may also have a German translation. It seems that video game developers underestimate the female market for video games just as so many crooks and criminals took Nancy Drew’s sleuthing skills too lightly. “In the end, she always wins,” Gaiser says.

Eric Hal Schwartz was an intern in Xconomy's Seattle office. Follow @

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