A Few Questions for Penny Milliken CEO of HeR Interactive

August 20, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

Why and how did you get into the Toy and Game industry?

I got into the industry as a result of all the entertainment properties that I worked on at Disney. They were always driven by content, and toys and games were part of the content to make them great franchises. When I started serving on the board of HeR Interactive, I became much more involved in the game development side and found that the growth in the games industry was continuing to accelerate. Today, it is as strong as film and television. I am happy to be a part of it with HeR Interactive.

HeR Interactive was a pioneer in 1998 when it began developing and publishing Nancy Drew interactive games for females. At that time, PC games were growing in popularity but many did not offer female audiences choices that were engaging, entertaining and that were tied to an iconic female brand. So with our games, the community grew and we at HeR Interactive are proud to have a strong fan base who have continued to be passionate about our games.

Along with our core PC/Mac franchise, we are now developing games for mobile platforms like our all new app, Nancy Drew®: Codes & Clues®.

As a bit of background, HeR Interactive has released 32 games, won over 30 Parents’ Choice Awards and sold more than 9 million copies of our games. And beginning with the company’s first videogame, our games have encouraged STEM education and careers. We know this because of all the fan emails, posts, tweets and letters. So we have taken this STEM experience and extended it to early learners under the company’s new division, Hi Kids™.

Hi Kids’™ mission is to spark an interest in coding with kids 5+ while solving a fun Nancy Drew mobile mystery. So all our games align well with the popularity of STEM toys and games.
 

What trends do you see in toys or games that excite or worry you?

When I was at this year’s Toy Fair and Digital Kids, I saw that that the trend continues to be tech infused entertainment and toys. I am excited by the trend and the opportunity, with our Nancy Drew: Codes & Clues app, to be a part of it by introducing young kids to an essential 21st century skill- coding. Parents and educators appreciate these games because they help prep early learners for school by building important spatial, reasoning, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.

What advice can you give to inventors who are presenting new toy or game ideas to you?

In addition to having a great idea, it is important to see a plan with a clear competitive market positioning to see that the toy, game or app is unique. Also having a marketing plan that will make their idea sustainable and profitable.
 

What was your favorite toy or game as a child?

Instead of playing with a specific toy or game, I created plays with my friends. They were holiday themed, or simple versions of Pinocchio and the Sound of Music for example. My younger sibling, who was 5 at the time, was a character in many of them.

 

What does your typical day look like?

You can’t build great games and apps and market them without a great team. We have ongoing updates, brainstorms and touch bases so that everyone contributes their unique skills and insights. So team meetings are key. During the development of Nancy Drew: Codes & Clues my typical day was spent with the team working on storyline, character design, or music selection as a few examples. And of course every day has too many emails!
 

What is the worst job you’ve ever had and what did you learn from it?

I’ve been lucky in that I have liked all my jobs. However, I learned a long time ago that I prefer working as part of a team, and that I enjoy having contact with customers. I love to see how they react to a product.
 

What inspires you?

Using my professional skills to solve problems that I am passionate about.

Right now it is sparking an interest in coding with early learners, especially girls.

 

What is one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?