We sat down with Sarah Anderson, director of global marketing and partnerships for Amazon Games publishing group, to get some behind-the-scenes insight into what it’s like to work at Amazon Games, and how her group is helping to build community and relationships with Amazon’s global gaming audience.
Sarah, what do you do at Amazon Games?
I run global marketing and partnerships at Amazon Games for both the internally and externally developed games that we publish. What’s really energizing for me is that I lead an incredible team of marketers who 1) help our developers and partners to connect to players and understand our customers, and 2) who develop innovative marketing campaigns to attract more people and engage communities in and around our games.
From the very earliest stages, my team works daily with our developers, to help them understand and build the best connections between our games and our players around the world. While this can manifest itself in many ways, it often includes global audience research, usability and accessibility testing, player insights, and most importantly sharing the feedback provided by our players.
Over the last few years, Amazon, and especially its entertainment groups and brands have grown to become an exciting family of interwoven services that deliver gamers, viewers, listeners, and other consumers compelling content. At Amazon Games, we are focused on innovating and creating the highest quality content and services for our players. My team has amazing products to market, and we get to have fun helping gamers fall in love with them too – and hopefully bring their friends!
How is marketing Amazon Games different from other companies that you’ve worked at? Why did you decide to take your career to Amazon?
First, the mix of brilliant, dedicated, and creative people working at Amazon is something special. When you take that diverse group, who come to Amazon Games from so many different places and backgrounds, and you give them the freedom to be innovative and the ownership to look for creative ways to leverage the resources within Amazon - from Prime Gaming to Amazon Games to Twitch - you end up with a team that pushes boundaries, challenges each other and learns new ways to connect to and service our players. We are extremely lucky to have the resources to make big ideas a reality.
There are a few reasons why I decided to join Amazon Games. Aside from the things I’ve already said, it was also partially due to a colleague. I had previously worked with Christoph Hartmann, Amazon Games’ vice president of games, back when we were both at 2K Games. While there, I was able to work with him to help build great IP, many of which became lasting franchises, and to build a publishing organization. He is now doing the same thing at Amazon Games, where he’s assembled an incredible team from around the industry. Here at Amazon Games, we’re able to leverage the reach and resources this company has to put great entertainment into the hands of players. Amazon encourages us to innovate, take risks, learn, and most of all, to be customer obsessed! Joining Christoph and the rest of this expert team was one of my easier career decisions.
During your time at Amazon Games, what are some of the projects you’ve undertaken that you’re most proud of?
I have put significant focus on building out the team. As a result, we now have an in-house creative team who have supported partners and delivered some brilliant work. We have also created a user-research team to get regular player feedback. But in terms of campaigns, there have been so many fun and successful marketing initiatives that the team worked on across channels. For one, we were able to create and execute an innovative program with New World called “Battle for New World.” Rather than just aiming at potential gamers, we developed it to build engagement and competition with creators. We wanted to inspire them to create and grow communities for New World with their audiences on Twitch. It was incredibly successful.
We took that learning from New World and created a similar global program called “Legends of Lost Ark” for the recently launched Lost Ark, which we are publishing in partnership with Smilegate RPG. As just a couple of data points, Lost Ark on Twitch saw 1.2 million concurrent viewers on launch day, and by March 25th, there had been more than 158 million hours watched on Twitch. We’re just getting started and have more in the works for these communities, which now stretch across Amazon Games, Twitch and Prime Gaming.
Overall, I’m proud of the publishing organization we are building and the talent we’ve amassed. In addition to growing in to a top-tier game publisher, the team has delivered with operational excellence. That may sound simple but it’s not easy. Along with our titles, we’re pursuing developing IP across Amazon properties which means we get to collaborate with the talent at Amazon Studios, Prime Video, Amazon Music, Twitch, Prime Gaming and others. We’ve also been rapidly growing our own teams and processes. The global marketing team alone has more than doubled since I got here, and we’re still looking for talent to add to the team!
Since joining Amazon Games two and half years ago, what changes have you seen in the company and industry? What do you see ahead?
Among the many growth points and positives, in the time I’ve been here, our group was placed under Amazon’s Global Media & Entertainment group. This makes great sense for several key reasons. First, it means our idea of developing IP across genres and mediums has become core to Amazon Games. Great IP can come from a movie to a game, book to a game, or grow from a musical artist to a game and then a show, or any combination. Almost anything worthwhile is possible here. And that structure also means that Amazon Games now works deeply with all the other content and distribution arms of Amazon. While of course this includes Amazon.com, and AWS, we are also working with Prime Gaming, Crown Channel, Luna, Twitch, Amazon Studios, Amazon Prime Video, Amazon Music and more. “Synergy” is such a buzz word but working closely together is having an incredible effect on inspired creativity and the eventual products and services we share with our players.
Speaking more of the industry at-large, one significant trend has been consolidation, evidenced by the many big corporate and brand purchases that have happened lately. With all these big moves, my hope is that the industry will not forget that it is all about the player.
Another development in the industry overall is awareness of and the moves for change around toxicity and diversity. In the last couple of years, thankfully we are seeing accelerating strides forward. I’ve seen more and more light shown on bad actors, which is an important catalyst for positive change. In my time at Amazon Games, I’ve felt there is little tolerance for toxic energy in any form. We want a safe place for our employees, colleagues in the industry and for players! We all have work to do as an industry, but I am optimistic that we’re moving ahead on a better and healthier path.
Lastly, I’ll circle back to the importance of IP and building brands, as we and gaming overall trend toward games-as-a-service. Approaching things this way puts us in the mindset of a continuing relationship between us, as a developer and publisher, and our players. We are in this for the long haul and need to earn trust and listen and evolve with our players. This approach is about developing more expansive and living IP, which translates into a better long-term business for Amazon Games and a lasting, more rewarding community and experience overall for our players.
How has the success of New World and Lost Ark opened your eyes to new opportunities for Amazon Games?
Through a couple of big title releases and solid traction, we've shown the industry, and ourselves, that this team knows how to launch great games and connect them with our players. We’ve learned the importance of nurturing community and IP. Every gaming company across the industry would like to expand the life of their games from a couple of years to a decade. We think we’re on track to do that and we are proud of our wins, but we are always learning, questioning, and we are never satisfied.
Finally, as I said before, it is and will continue to be a distinct strength that we have a family of brands and services under Amazon Games and Amazon as a whole, that enable us to build and develop in a way that is unique and underlines long term growth philosophies of both Amazon and the games-as-a-service model.
Any lessons learned? Learnings you’ll take to your next projects?
There are big lessons all around because we are always learning, but the last two years also reinforced what I have seen throughout my years in the industry, launching games is hard and that is why you want to love what you do and work with amazing people.
A more discrete lesson is that working across brands under Amazon Games with support and buy-in from the development teams can be magical. Marketing games is a full-team integrated effort. Twitch and Prime Gaming are valuable tools to help grow engagement and build audiences and a thriving community, but all parts need to be authentic and built into the game to be valuable to customers and creators. Great people and teams, and some of the industry’s most powerful brands and tools, all working together is ultimately giving players the best of what they want, however they want it.
Thank you to Sarah Anderson, for giving us a rare insider's look into how Amazon Games approaches the marketing of games, works deeply with developers and partners, and builds strong communities and engaging content for players.