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

On a desk, two magnifying glasses lie atop a small stack of books bound in a style reminiscent of a stately Victorian library. In any other video game company’s office they might seem out of place, but Bellevue, WA-based Her Interactive makes video games based on the written adventures of girl detective Nancy Drew, whose adventures have been published since the 1930s. So magnifying glasses and old-fashioned books seem as appropriate as the computers on company president and CEO Megan Gaiser’s desk.

Her Interactive is one of the fastest-growing computer and video game companies you’ve never heard of. Its product line—nearly 30 games for three platforms (with five new releases this year), and 7 million units sold in 11 years—comes from making the most of an oft-ignored niche in video games: girls and women who want interesting games that don’t patronize them. It’s a sound strategy, judging from the 20 percent of the adventure-game genre market Her Interactive has captured, according to market research firm NPD. The company grew from 25 to 55 employees in 2008, aided by the 1.6 million games sold last year, and has been profitable since 2002. “Each new game outsells the last,” Gaiser says.

Her Interactive was originally a division of American Laser Games in Albuquerque, NM, and was the only part of that company to survive bankruptcy, relocating to Bellevue in 1997. Gaiser joined that year as creative director, before becoming CEO only a year later. Gaiser had first moved to Washington in 1994, after 11 years of film making, to work on multimedia projects at Microsoft.

At first, Her Interactive had trouble getting games into the market. In 1999, when Gaiser attempted to sell the first Nancy Drew computer game, publishers told her, “Girls will never play video games because they’re computer-phobic.” Unable to get a publisher to accept the game, Her Interactive took … Next Page »

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

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