Gaming: Sony (GSN)
Digital Transformation
Case Study

Prepared by Robin M. Gregory, CEO
mobileLACE, LLC

The content herein is based on my own personal experience, observation and collation of direct interviews from participants involved in further transforming agility and dev ops in the webspace and other verticals organizations.


Thank you for choosing mobileLACE for your innovative digital transformation journey;  Our Case Studies will show that Transformation Constraints can be mitigated by using our tested and now proprietary, innovation solutions for technology and business provided inside our mobileLACE Digital Transformation Platform.

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Case study time was 8 months – when ATT bought Direct TV and major changes were underfoot as well as a move to Boston.  In 2021 – as I write this, Sony
Entertainment (NYSE:SNE) is the parent company and 100% owner of GSN aka Game Show Network once again. 
GSN is the social gaming unit that produces and offers original and classic game programming like Scrabble, Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy for Sony.   They’re online and mobile game presence offers nostalgic and modern experiences to millions through web apps on mobile, and televised versions of games on U.S. based cable networks carried by DIRECTV.  

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My business and technology transformation experience started in 1994 – you can listen to earlier case studies Telecommunications: MCI WORLDCOM, and International Real Estate – specifically, Eco-Tourism on the Placencia Peninsula of Belize, CA on our  “Digital Alchemists” podcast. As an Enterprise Business Analyst, Enterprise Transformation Coach and CEO, I have strategized solutions from the 1990’s until 2019 – when I took collective, collated experiences from over 25+ years and strategized the mobileLACE model. Then with the mobileLACE team we developed it in 2020-2021 into a digital transformation platform.

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In 2013 GSN’s transformation constraints were: 

Increase Customer Satisfaction
While Moving to 100% Agile Development 
Retain Market Share –
With New Innovative Plays
Beneficial Prioritization for Both Short Term/Long Term Needs/Goals


This study began at the dawn of a new era for the gaming industry; 2013  brought next-gen consoles like Play Station 4, and XBox One – from SONY’s G&NS division.

While it struggled to evolve its architecture into a modular platform that could  support online and mobile gaming – its corporate ownership structure antithetically partnered with a big, old, S&P 500 company called AT&T who was really making a digital cable play for Direct TV.

 In 2013 it may not have been as apparent to the main office  C-level as it was to GSN  local Executives and the gaming development team  that GSN – for SONY, could be the future of the mobile app gaming business if its architecture could withstand an update to advance that position. 

Because enjoyable experiences are paramount to player satisfaction and therefore gamer retention, often immediate fixes to current gaming functionality is required.  Whether  to increase TAM or player pleasure – those needs outweigh any technical architectural platform obsolescence.  In any space it is key to retain BAU while morphing into a new authenticity. 

As a certified Film & Television Producer: NYU-2012 and certified Agile Software Program Coach (Sr. Scrum Master/RTE) upon arrival at GSN:  I began coaching the WEB org program teams – the goal was to fine tune into an efficient Agile enterprise model to deliver high quality, prioritized software and integrated platform delivery.  

They already were releasing fast to market – on a daily basis.

In order to balance creative ideation – evolving a new development funnel, without personal agendas (no matter the influence) was needed.  To get to future modularity it would be necessary to prioritize and align the  decomposition of scope including tech debt and architectural design alongside new feature development. 

This would not only allow transformation but remove the political issues encountered with local and board executives.  This solution  became the basis for change and the Balanced Scorecard strategy was deemed a viable way to trace the success of the shift – prioritization by prioritization.  

The Problem…

In order to balance creative ideation  and architectural evolution needed to support that new development, a different scope funnel  system was needed.   

To get to future modularity it would be necessary to prioritize the decomposition of scope with a more intentional and aligned approach  – including things like tech debt and architectural design along side new feature requirements.  Duplicate value development often unseen eats away at short term or long term ROI advancement – similar to ‘culture eating strategy for breakfast’, put by Deming.

These changes seen through the lens of the the Balanced Scorecard was the strategy for how we would trace the success of our shifted prioritization – just like our players, move by move.  

However, creating new innovative functionality planned for use down the road (a must to remove stale experience – to meet changing player personas) without missing a corporate revenue beat, requires out-of-the-box thinking.  Much like  game designers did when they began utilizing mesh to help innovation blossom and modularity arrive,  the latter mostly to diminish hardware intensity, GSN needed to affect efficient new feature development that delighted.

Okay – Let’s game on…

Because hidden relationships between external variables- such as social influence, achieving a spectrum of hedonic experience that motivates specific demographic groups to action (sometimes unknown) and the game’s  perceived ease-of-use by the gamer (also unknown) often determines return-play, due to satisfaction.  All of these criteria must be transparently understood to prioritize.

The initial behavior derived from game theory – where economics and math correlates the strategic potentiality of game from play to pay-off – was helpful for certain scenarios that played out – but not enough. 

As evolutionary game theory began to multiply and blossom – focusing on the interpretation of actual moves that “rationally motivated” players take – software game designers began to understand better what additional features (or bells and whistles) would create a never-ending level of enjoyment.  This demand theory followed at GSN. 

However, GSN also knew that getting outside of the gaming headspace of the industry and into other remarkable aspects of the gamer’s journey: like graphics and content, is where the real innovation play was going forward.  Strategy and animation or new mechanics for game design – that make the gamer feel good or entertained, would be the ultimate transformational journey. 

Still we continue to have the short term long term dilemma! 

The Solution…

To get to future modularity prioritization for the decomposition of scope – the process needed alignment. It was a challenge to show how connecting into things – like manual workarounds or technical debt, and necessary architectural design, alongside new functionality that consumers wanted might intersect and impact one another.

This integrated modularity solution would allow further transformation, but also should likely remove the political issues that existed between local and corporate board executives.  This solution recommendation  became the basis for implementing change – and the Balanced Scorecard strategy to provide validation for  the success of the shift prioritization by prioritization, was introduced.

Solution Benefits:

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Modeling With Agile For Customer Satisfaction:

Defining gaming requirements that create customer satisfaction takes extreme personal knowledge of your players/customers. The initial behavior derived from game theory c.1944 – where economics and math correlate the strategic potentiality of game play to pay-off scenarios, was helpful but not enough for online, technically savvy, isolated gaming.

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Interpretation of the actual moves that – rationally motivated players take was required for Product Owners to really assist software game developers and designers when building additional features that would actually create a never-ending level of individual persona enjoyment. This demand from game designers was followed at GSN with technology breakthroughs, but AI was not yet at the peak it is while I write this case study. And, the customer journey concept was ramping up for the Agile approach in 2013 – also, the integration point of the AT&T merger.

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Retain Market Share – Innovate

Getting outside the gaming head space of the industry into being recognized for other remarkable aspects of gaming: like graphics and content, is where the real innovation play was going in the future. Animation or new mechanics for game design that make the gamer feel good – or entertained, and an understanding of anthropology and intrinsic motivation was at its birth combined with the ultimate transformational online, individual and televised journey.

3rd Party Data Context:


Even the original televised syndication of JEOPARDY (1964) had the exogenous “set,” host fashions, and topic up-date from time to time – with new features being added incrementally to the brand – like the Jeopardy app in 2017. However, individual GSN web games were built on older platforms with tremendous tech debt – created pre-Agile, making it difficult just to get needed value out the door. Our innovation solution started with a process for evolutionary architecture including the embedding of tech debt with TAM retention budgets for – the web game functionality to advance. Both the above solutions used the new funnel and the Balanced Scorecard Framework by Kaplan.

Constraint 1:
Customer Satisfaction with Agile Aproach

Technology Constraint:

At GSN I determined that using gaming in your approach made many better employees and later read validation for this concept applied from multiple sources. Gamification characteristics within a challenging environment – one that does not focus on hoarding and winning, but instead achieving value, really creates a dedicated practice or discipline that often translates into a healthy work ethic and camaraderie.

Transformation Solution:

When the Agile mindset is instituted correctly it can take on the form of gamification in development. They call it swarming in the industry – but what it really boils down to is everyone helps each other get the work done without any competitive edge or posturing. Competition kills Agility – just like “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”
– Demming.

Constraint 2:
Market Share Retention – Innovation

Market Share Retention:

Gaming supplements a person’s current human emotional state – just like with film, the customer wants to be transported into another mental space. While film by genre allows one to choose their journey – according to the emotion or sense of awe they want to feel from the flick – gaming does not categorize this way.
GSN modeled innovation in-house the same way they did in gaming online – developing intrinsic motivation with rewards and items that game developers and game customers desired – the latter, thru coins and electronic “sale” or “give-a-way” ads.

Transformation Journey:

When the future of all ads and media were becoming programmatic and digital, it allowed online game companies to:
a.) Increase revenue via the type of ads it allowed customers to see and hopefully click into.
b.) prolong satisfaction of the emotional trigger – sending another surge of adrenaline re: offered product sales and rewards within the gaming experience.

Ultimately new ad monetization would be used to support the development of TAM and give an opportunity to trial development for innovation.

Alternatively GSN’s all-hands quarterly hackathon that allowed employees to create apps and functionality – good for company operations, new game products, or modular technology platforms would create as usual and new needed operational efficiency without depleting corporate revenue receipts.

Constraint 3:
roi: Short vs. Long-Term


1. Criteria for the balanced scorecard was delivered in conjunction with the hackathon results on same day the company announced intentions to move to Boston – due to the AT&T merger (executives needed ease of arrival into Massachusetts offices.) This was a disrupter!
2. The impending marriage with AT&T seemed oil and water – even for an outside bystander. Logic vs. creativity and a hierarchal orientation from the past – just as GSN was looking to the future, radically different agendas.
3. The Balanced Scorecard was back burnered


1. institution of additional Agile techniques – with a goal toward enterprise scaling were having excellent results.
2. Software platforms developed in Q3 Hackathon for HR and Finance processes were front-lined – affording transparency into what was needed for dashboard agility metrics and KPI’s going forward.
3. The courage to eliminate tech debt from a secondary prioritization position to a blended first priority associating it with value being delivered with – as means of moving architectural modularity forward with needed functionality being built

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