Interview with Sam Coster
Co-Founder @ Butterscotch Shenanigans, Forbes 30 Under 30

I co-founded Butterscotch Shenanigans with my brothers Seth and Adam Coster. I'm the creative director, artist, and co-designer primarily, though I wear a lot of hats. We have more than 5,000,000 players across our initial releases (Quadropus Rampage, Towelfight 2, Flop Rocket, Roid Rage) and our most recent title, Crashlands, received numerous Game of the Year nominations and awards on Mobile, as well as great reviews on PC. We're currently waist deep our next title, though it's so secret you'd need to trade me a Phoenix Feather to hear about it.
What's next for Butterscotch Shenanigans, as well as your own career?
The very next thing for Butterscotch is a game called Level Head. And Level Head is sort of an answer to something like Super Mario Maker which allows you to build and be creative and make really fun platforming levels, it doesn't exist on anything except for the WiiU and the 3DS. So we're making this big game where you can you build levels, you share them with friends and you can sort of gain some popularity and even some like mild internet fame by being a creator, a level designer. And so far it's really been kind of knocking peoples socks off internally, the people we've talked to and we're excited to share more about it later on. As far as my own career, I've been really focusing primarily on just getting way better with the art. So art is my primary thing I do for the studio as well as design. And up until actually this year I never really took super serious. I started doing art when we started the studio as a requirement because you need it. And I was the other half so that was sort of what I did. And this year I'm really trying to dive into it and get mastery over a lot of things that I've just sort of have ignored frankly over the last five years. So next for my career is just honestly becoming an art master and then being able to train other people and do that sort of thing so we can grow the business.
How has being nominated for Forbes 30 Under 30 influenced your career?
Be nominated for the Forbes 30 Under 30 has been an interesting thing. I would say it hasn't done anything big yet and I think the interesting thing about these awards and awards in general, is that they tend not to mean much in general until they suddenly do. And what I mean by that is something like the Forbes thing it just sort of gives you a stamp of approval and that might make other interested parties actually play ball with you later on. So we haven't launched a game since I got the nomination. We haven't done anything really really big in terms of our overall studio movement stuff, where that little stamp of approval saying "hey these people are legit, you know this guy might know a little bit about what he's talking about". We haven't really had the opportunity to exploit exactly that. So I'm still sort of just keeping an eye on it and watching to see what happens. And really excited to meet other people of course, on the list makers, I've actually met a couple of the ones who are in St. Louis. And we've gone for coffee and kind of hung out quite a bit which has been a wonderful thing in itself. So I'm curious to see where everything goes.
From idea to launch, how long did it take to establish Butterscotch Shenanigans?
The interesting thing about our studio and about game studios generally is that it's not about making one particular product, usually, it's about making a bunch of different ones. So in our case actually our first game that we launched was within three months of going full time with our studio. So that first game came out and it just bombed, it bombed so hard it was unbelievable. And actually still hasn't made back the money even five years later that it cost, which was not very much money because it was just two of us paying ourselves to be alive. After that game, we switch to a free to play model which none of us liked, but we wanted to do it to try and survive. And we made another game, that took us about 60 days to make. We shipped that one and it did well enough to pay me well enough to sort of pay my bills, and by bills, I mean a low-level apartment rent and some basic insurance, things like that, in the Midwest which is very low and it still wasn't enough to pay the other half the team. So my brother, Seth, had his wife support him during the early years. And we're working on that really big game called Crashlands which ended up being very very successful but took two years to make. So we had a lot of ups and downs, and that I would say that's probably the point where we actually got established because up until then while we did have good cash flow and that sort of thing it wasn't enough to pay anyone to do anything, it certainly wasn't paying us very much to stay alive. So it was a very barebones and lean operation for about three years actually.
What have been the most successful games you've launched with Butterscotch Shenanigans? Why do you think these games were so successful?
We make games really really fast. So we frequently participate in what is called 'Game Jams' which are 48-hour events, kind of like a hackathon. Where you get a theme on Friday and you build a game by Sunday and most of our games have actually come out of those Game Jam events. One of the ones that did not was actually one of our most successful ones. So that was called Crashlands and it came out back in 2016. It sold over about a half million units across all the different storefronts and we think a big part of the success was actually the fact that we took more time with that one and it ended up taking two years to make, instead of about three months which was the timelines on the other ones. And on top of that, we did a lot more marketing efforts. We built up a community and I think the big part for us was finding a genre that people really liked to play which were these sort of crafting games and just taking a slightly different angle on it. Which is instead of having more survival elements where people are always dying, and sort of dealing with inventory and some of these other annoying things about the survival genre, we made it really light and fun and super easy to use.
Could you please introduce Butterscotch Shenanigans and what led to your co-founding the company?
Hi everybody. My name is Sam from Butterscotch Shenanigans and the question is 'Could you please introduce Butterscotch Shenanigans and what led to your cofounding of the company?'. Butterscotch Shenanigans is an independent game studio. And what that means is that we do not take any money from publishers. We make all of our own IP. We kind of do whatever we want. All of our stuff is self-funded and were actually a bootstrapped company. We've never taken investments or loans or anything like that. And what led to co-founding the company was that myself and my brothers worked in another game studio and we just thought that maybe we could do things a bit faster and maybe we wanted to sort of run our own ship. So back in 2012, we struck out from that companies studio. Now it's been about six years and were still alive which is a bit of a miracle in the industry. So we've got another couple of games in the works and we'd like to do a lot of weird web stuff with those games and we got a lot of cool stuff in the pipe.