Why Sony Bet on Colombia-based Zemoga for App Development

This is Sony's first partnership of this kind in Latin America. Over the course of the year, Sony was really happy with the output of the OTT work, so they have now transitioned 100% of their application development to Zemoga, including PS4.

Sony
Photo: Business Wire

When global entertainment company Sony needed to rewrite its Over the Top (OTT) television application PlayStation Vue, it turned to Bogotá, Colombia-based Zemoga, the developer behind the Hulu app.

“We couldn’t hire fast enough and we needed to bring on a partner to rewrite a couple of different applications on a couple of different platforms for Vue,” explained Sony PlayStation’s Chris Hebert.

PlayStation Plus, PlayStation Now and Vue are the primary pre-loaded top tier applications on PlayStation and Vue is Sony’s OTT offering. “The big focus for OTT for us is what we term game watch game. We know that gamers typically game in the afternoon and then go and do something else, so we need to have a compelling offering on PlayStation to keep them on PlayStation, bring them back to game later, and get them to spend more money,” Hebert said.

Going All In with Zemoga

Chris Hebert, Sony’s Head of Product for PlayStation Now and Game Services

Sony PlayStation has been partnered with Zemoga for a year now. “Our initial engagement was to work on a project specifically for the PlayStation Vue platform, which is Sony’s OTT television service. The initial scope was to take a year during which we would be rewriting our entire application on a couple of different platforms and see how it goes.”

Over the course of the year, the relationship was going extremely well and Sony was really happy with the output of the work, so they have now transitioned essentially 100% of their application development to Zemoga, including PS4.

With growing hype around the successor to the PS4, 2019 has been a busy year for Sony from a new console perspective.

“The next console after PS4 is being spoken about and so we had to reallocate a significant amount of engineering resources to work on that. So while that was going on, Zemoga was able to ramp up their team to support all of our needs,” Hebert said.

He added: “They have built out a dedicated device and QA lab for us on a dedicated floor at their offices in Bogotá. They have staff members that will be at our offices in San Francisco full time.

Facilitating the Partnership

Zemoga have labelled the new Device Lab a LatAm-first, to validate, verify, and test the design, deployment, and operations of digital services they develop for their clients in the Americas. The company invested over US$350,000 in the Lab.

Hebert agrees that the facilities are akin to what would be built in San Francisco or San Diego. “My impression, having been down there a few times to see them, is that they mirror what I would I would see in an established tech office in the Bay Area.”

But it is not only the facilities that impressed Sony. Hebert added: “I think their staff in general and their professionalism is at a level of most West Coast tech companies.” And it was this ethos and staff expertise that sold Sony on Colombia.

“As far as I know, this is the first collaboration in Latin America,” he said. Sony went through an evaluation process last summer and looked at companies in Europe, Russia, Canada, India and Colombia, before settling on Zemoga.

“Zemoga in particular had a level of high touch that was pretty clear from the very beginning, in how they presented themselves, how the team members worked together, how they described they would attack an opportunity,” Hebert said. “It was pretty different from just a normal outsourcing and staff augmentation model.”

He emphasized that Zemoga does not just talk about being a family, they really are like a family that works together and they have pride in that.

Partner Potential

Apart from the nearshore advantages of similar time zone and Zemoga’s approach to teamwork and development, it was the company’s significant experience from having built the Hulu app and a couple of other video based apps in the space that cemented things for Sony. “We knew they had pretty good experience of delivering quality around video.”

Zemoga recently released one of the bigger updates for the PlayStation Vue applications. Hebert said that apart from the physical distance, there have been no real challenges to working with the Colombian partner.

“They have been open to being onsite here when needed. We had a solid month of onboarding and a month when we have needed them to be here for longer times of transition with teams. There will also be a staff member that will be full-time in our offices in San Francisco. They have offset their working schedules to accommodate our working schedules in California.”

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Hebert sees the potential for the partnership to grow. “I think there is a great opportunity for us to take advantage of some of the other things they do around design and market analysis pieces instead of just treating it like an application shop,” he said. “That’s what they have done already for some of the competitive gaming groups. With some of the new things we are working on, there is an opportunity for them to shine there as well.”

The new testing facilities are also opening up opportunities. Hebert explained it takes a great many people, hours, devices and space to have that amount of testing going on an almost 24-hour basis. “Now that they have built this testing lab it is also another area for us to be able to offload some significant work to them.”

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