a woman listening music while using her mobile phone
Finland-based startup Zemeho realised that even though youth has their earphones in while playing mobile games, they tend to listen their own music. Image: Pexels

Zemeho is music to the ears of gamers

Sustaining a youthful mix is all about creating choices for this Oulu startup.

James O’Sullivan

27.04.2016

It seems that truly iconic musical themes are few and far between these days in the games world. Sure, the catchy beeps of Super Mario Bros. and Tetris are lodged firmly in the memory banks for many, so too the rousing grandeur of The Legend of Zelda. But if one were to be perfectly honest, the volume of truly compelling tunes produced recently has been a little low frequency.

According to Oulu-based startup Zemeho there might just be a very good reason for some games studios not investing too heavily in their latest soundtracks.

“We observed youth playing their mobile games and noticed they all had their earphones in,” explains company CEO River Boche. “The majority of them tend to listen to their own music.”

Valinta is Zemeho’s music streaming plug-in service for casual mobile gamers, doing away with the need for leap-frogging between apps in order to cue up their favourite tunes. All users need do is click on the embedded V icon whilst playing and swiftly choose from a range of genre specific playlists.

And then return their focus to the game at hand.

Changing the tune

Taking its name from the Finnish word for ‘choice’, not only is Valinta made with under 21s in mind, it has also been designed by youth. In fact, the lion’s share of Zemeho’s innovations come from its 17-year-old concept designer and global pitcher.

“Zemeho mixes today’s youth with senior business professionals such as myself and other cofounders,” Boche explains. “Youth have always come up with the ideas. They were the first to use Snapchat, WhatsApp and Viber, for example.”

“Zemeho mixes today’s youth with senior business professionals such as myself and other cofounders,” says Zemeho’s CEO River Boche. “Youth have always come up with the ideas. They were the first to use Snapchat, WhatsApp and Viber, for example.”

“Zemeho mixes today’s youth with senior business professionals such as myself and other cofounders,” says Zemeho’s CEO River Boche. Image: Zemeho

Zemeho first revealed this youthful approach at startup hub Slush in 2014.

“We took the conceptual idea and pitched it to major gaming execs,” Boche recalls. “They understood that the youth prefer their own music and that it’s expensive for indie developers to acquire music for their games, and also that it’s a disruptive business model.”

The subsequent road to success has been swift. When the plug-in service was launched in Fingersoft Games’ Fail Hard back in January, the response was unprecedented.

“We had 15 to 18 000 genre selections on the first day, and nearly 150 000 songs played,” Boche states. “It was really compelling. This really showed that the end users would play their own music if given the opportunity.”

A month later the number of songs selected had already topped three million. Unsurprisingly, these huge numbers have had the desired effect.

“It has really opened up the eyes of the streaming music industry and record labels themselves,” Boche states. “We are in discussions with some of them. They would really like to penetrate the gaming industry, because there are one billion gamers out there.”

Musical combinations

With Valinta now well and truly up and running, Boche emphasises that the service will remain free for gaming studios and also the end users. Monetisation is set to come from ads and promotions, along with revenue sharing with record labels and the streaming industry.

All of this suggests that Zemeho is just a few songs in to what promises to be a memorable playlist – if one may use such an analogy.

“This is just the beginning; our future is also in normal apps too,” Boche states. “We are in talks with major sports and social media apps to provide the plug-in service. There is a big future in combining music with gaming and mobile apps.”

Facing the music is (l to r) Zemeho’s Ossi Juusola, River Boche, Dean Boche and Kimmo Kuusipalo.

Facing the music is (l to r) Zemeho’s Ossi Juusola, River Boche, Dean Boche and Kimmo Kuusipalo. Image: Zemeho

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