Interview with Her Interactive

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MasterAbbott recently sat down with Jessica Chiang – Marketing Manager of Her Interactive, and newest product sponsor of Capsule Computers.  The pioneers in interactive entertainment targeted towards female gamers and whose mission is to lead the industry toward a new standard of intelligent interactive entertainment for girls.  Jessica has taken the time go through and answer in fine detail all there is to know about Her Interactive and many of it’s most popular titles. 

Bringing enjoyment and entertainment to female gaming market is fantastic and we hope that Her Interactive continues to grow bigger and bigger as more female gamers young and old are introduced to their amazing array of games.

Enjoy the interview below :

Jessical could you start off by gives us a a brief history and rundown of Her Interactive and your career in video game industry and how you have made it to where you are today.

Jessica Chiang : Her Interactive is the pioneer in interactive entertainment targeted toward female play preferences whose corporate mission is to lead the industry toward a new standard of intelligent interactive entertainment for girls. As the Marketing Manager for Her Interactive, I am responsible for overseeing the successful and timely product launches of the company’s Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys games across all platforms. I also manage the Her Interactive website and community message board, and tasked with growing the Nancy Drew PC game community through social networking, analysis of industry trends, and consumer research. Prior to joining Her Interactive, I gained valuable marketing insight and skills through internships at such leading companies as Alaska Airlines, Experience Music Project, and Wizards of the Coast. I hold a Bachelors’ degree in Business with a concentration in Marketing, and a minor in Philosophy from the University of Washington.

Question 1 – Tell us a little bit about Her Interactive.  How were they created and why ? When was it first established, and how many employees does it have today.

Jessica Chiang : Her Interactive began when a company called American Laser Games was still the leading video arcade company.  Her Interactive was a division that was born as the brainchild of the wife of the CEO.  Ultimately, Her Interactive was the only division to survive because it showed a lot of potential thanks to a game entitled McKenzie & Co. which the Company created in 1995 and sold 30,000 units – all at a time when few people believed there was a market for girls.  That success became the springboard for the next game, Vampire Diaries, which we then used as R&D for the first Nancy Drew game in 1998.  Her Interactive develops and publishes our own games and there are currently 30 employees.

Question 2 : What do you believe have been Her Interactive’s greatest challenges in creating and developing games. What sort of issues or speed bumps did the company face along the way?

 Jessica Chiang : When we first started in the industry, we looked around and saw very few games made for girls.  We were surprised, but we realized an opportunity so we created our first PC game and took it to the publishers to put on the retail shelves. All of them turned us down.

They said girls and women would not play video games because they were computer phobic. It was an unbelievable comment, and yet it was pervasive in the industry. Our tagline quickly became “for girls who aren’t afraid of a mouse”.  So, we did what any spurned entrepreneur would do – we self published on Amazon. They wouldn’t let us in the front door so we went around back. After seeing our success on Amazon, those same publishers came back to do a deal in retail. Since then, the Nancy Drew Adventure Series has sold over 7 million units with 21 titles, outselling franchises such as Myst and Harry Potter.  We hope that our games have introduced girls and women to gaming and given them a sense of empowerment.

Question 3 : For people new to gaming not aware of Her Interactive.  What sort and style of games do you have available for consumers.  Please explain in as much detail the broad range of titles available to consumers.  Are most of the Games created by Her Interactive only suitable for a specific age rating or can anyone enjoy playing Her Interactive Games.

 Jessica Chiang : We have two different PC series (Nancy Drew Adventure and Nancy Drew Dossier) for two different play styles, although both series stay true to the Nancy Drew experience where the player must solve a mystery by searching for clues, solving puzzles, and interrogating suspects. The Nancy Drew Adventure Series is a first-person perspective, point-and-click adventure game featuring fully animated characters in navigatable environments that will challenge the wits of even the keenest detective. The Nancy Drew Dossier series focuses on finding hidden clues and using them together in a logical manner. It is targeted toward busy detectives who may not have time to sit down to the more involved Adventure Series games.  There are also more arcade-type minigames, multiple endings, and hints to guide the player in the Dossier series.

In addition to our PC games, there is also Nancy Drew: The White Wolf of Icicle Creek game for the Wii™ and our first Hardy Boys® game, Treasure on the Tracks for the Nintendo® DS™.  All of Her Interactive’s games are rated E-E10 and are wholesome games for the entire family.  Our core audience for the Adventure Series is teen girl with a very strong secondary audience of adult women.

Question 4 : What do you believe is your most popular Her Interactive game/product.  Please explain it and can it be enjoyed by people of all ages ? And What has made it such a great success ?

 Jessica Chiang : Nancy Drew: Treasure in a Royal Tower is our best selling game.  Even though it was released in 2001 our fans cite this as their favorite game because they love the story and the creepy castle.  Treasure in a Royal Tower explores the secrets of Wickford Castle, the last known hiding place of Marie Antoinette, and challenges players to find the legends the doomed Queen left behind.  This game is enjoyed by players of all ages. 

Overall the success of our games is based on storytelling and the brand.  We start off with a great mystery to hook the player, and then we lead them clues about the suspects until they reach the climax of the game.  You’re constantly gathering clues and learning more about the suspects, but you never quite know if you’ve solved the case yet, so you keep going.  The games appeal to a lot of people because they’re fun, challenging, and also wholesome.  Nancy Drew an 80 year-old brand that is loved by generations of girls and women, and coupled with a great game – you have a winning combination! Once you’ve played one game, you’ll want to collect them all.  Over 45% of our fans own all 21 Adventure Series games!

Question 5 : Do you need to have a specific level of gaming knowledge or skill to enjoy Her Interactive games.  Do Her Interactive games cater for both beginners and advanced players ?

 Jessica Chiang : Although you won’t need any level of gaming knowledge, you’ll need Nancy Drew’s signature sense of curiosity and perseverance to solve these games.  Players need to look everywhere to leave no clue unturned and no suspect unquestioned.   Of course there are puzzles and riddles that will test the player’s intellect, but that’s where perseverance is necessary and a little help from the Her Interactive Message Board can come in handy.    There are two levels of difficulty in the Adventure Series games: Junior and Senior Detective.  Junior Detective equips players with a journal to remind players of tasks they need to complete and offers slightly easier puzzles.  If you want a serious challenge, try playing on Senior Detective level.  We offer strategy guides if the player needs more help to complete the game as well. There’s also the Dossier series which ensures that the player will always know what to do next, but allows the player figure out how to get to that end result in each scene.

Question 6 : Are Her Interactive games created on all the major platforms, such as PC, XBOX, PS3, Nintendo, DS, iPhone ?  Is development of Her Interactive Games done in-house? How many software developers are employed by Her Interactive?

 Jessica Chiang : We primarily develop for the PC because our target market is females 10-16 and they usually own a PC, but not necessarily any additional consoles or handhelds.  Our research has shown that most females are still on the PC because they’re not as interested in purchasing a machine that only runs games.  We, however, created a Game Boy Advance game (Treasure in a Royal Tower) as an experiment several years ago, and we learned that our current, story-based game formula was most suited to the PC platform at that time. In the past year, we developed Nancy Drew: The White Wolf of Icicle Creek for Wii and The Hardy Boys: Treasure on the Tracks for the Nintendo DS. 

The development of all PC games is done in-house with a team of 20.

Question 7 : The Apple iphone / iTouch is one of the biggest consumer products used worldwide at the moment for mobile gaming.  Currently are there any games available Her Interactive games for the iPhone ? And is there any plans to develop games for the iPhone in the future ?

 Jessica Chiang : We have not developed any games for the iPhone.  However, we continue to seek new avenues for growth in the female gaming market.  Although the iPhone isn’t targeted toward our audience of girls and females – the iPodTouch is very popular with tween and teen girls and there are certainly more opportunities to explore here.

Question 8 : What was the development process like in creating Her Interactive games like the Nancy Drew Series ?  What sort of research is done in creating a new and certainly a very enjoyable and challenging game for players each and every time ?  Please explain the entire process  from Storyboarding, concept art, QA etc.

 Jessica Chiang : Our process is similar to other game developers, but we have to be more efficient since we release two games a year!  Our game designers start with a theme from a Nancy Drew book and expand on the ideas, characters, and clues that are referenced in the books.  Extensive research about theme and the backstory of the game is conducted by game designers and then checked for accuracy.  We pride ourselves in providing games that are both fun and educational.  Then they build a visual map of the game flow and create puzzles that will feel organic to the environments that players will explore.  Once the designer knows all the specifics of the game, they will give art direction for environments, characters, and animation.  As the artists complete the art for the game, the scripters and developers create the puzzles and logic for the game.  Then, we send the game to our Advisory Panel and Beta Testers so they can play through it to tell us what they think isn’t fun, is too difficult, doesn’t make sense, etc.  We make changes based on their feedback as well as feedback we have received from previous games before sending the game to QA for bug testing.  As soon as QA certifies the build, we give the game to our manufacturer to replicate.  Because we release two games a year, we don’t include storyboarding or concept art as part of our process in order to meet our aggressive schedule.

Question 9 :  What can fans and consumers expect to see in terms of innovative, creative and new games from Her Interactive.  What new titles can we all expect to see in the future and on what gaming platform will they be made available on.

 Jessica Chiang : This summer we will release our 22nd game, Nancy Drew: Trail of the Twister.  In this game, $100,000,000 is at stake in a competition to discover a formula to predict tornado touchdowns. But when equipment starts failing and crew members are injured, you as Nancy Drew, must join the team to keep them in the competition. Is it just bad luck that’s plaguing the storm chasers or is someone sabotaging their chances of winning? 

Then in the fall, we’ll release our 23rd game, which we’re keeping secret for now, but I will tell you that’s it going to be set in an international location.

Question 10: Finally.  What do you love most about working at Her Interactive.

 Jessica Chiang : The reason I love working for Her Interactive is because I get to interact so closely with the game designers in creating the game.  Marketing cultivates a relationship with the fans so they share their honest opinions about the games that we can then take back to design.  A lot of times the publisher and developer are two different companies, but since we self-publish, we are able to meld the best of both worlds together.  We create games that our fans want with features they request and that’s very rewarding.   We are also extremely lucky to have such a great fans who love to share their ideas with us. Our fans send us emails with feedback, leave notes on the message board, mention us in their Tweets, and even make videos about us on YouTube. Not many companies get to work with fans that are so passionate about their products!

Once again Capsule Computers would like to thank Jessica for taking the time from her busy schedule in answering these questions and informing our reader on Her Interactive, its history, its games and it’s future. 

* Want to win a HER Interative Game ?  *

Leave a comment below.  Tell us what your favourite HER Interactive game is.  Or what Her Interactive Game you’d love to play or see in the future.   Let’s try and get 30-60 comments, suggestions once we get there, I’ll pick a winner 🙂  

Also feel free to link this interview on your blogs or in your twitter.  The sooner we 30-60 comments to sooner someone wins.

Good luck  🙂

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