“We’re less of a corporate body and more a group of nerds who like to make fun things” – the story of Coatsink

Coatsink may have been named after a joke, but the studio is serious stuff, packed with almost 100 talented developers who have managed to bring some big names into their titles. This article was created in collaboration with Aardvark Swift.

Jack Sanderson from Coatsink
Jack Sanderson from Coatsink

With a history steeped in VR, PC, console, and mobile development, Coatsink is heading into one of its most exciting years yet, with a plethora of new titles on their roster, including the recently released Get Packed, and the upcoming launches of PHOGS! and Cake Bash.

Originally founded in 2009, this Sunderland-based studio has matured into an inspiring development house, fuelled by innovation and a wicked sense of humour.

They’re predominantly a developer, with co-development and publishing arms to augment what they can offer. But how did two Teesside University students found such a fantastic studio, and how have they had to alter their marketing plans for their upcoming titles amidst current conditions?

James Bowers from Aardvark Swift spoke with Jack Sanderson, the PR and Events Manager for Coatsink, to take a better look at those questions.

“Our co-founders [Tom Beardsmore and Paul Crabb] have been friends since secondary school. The name came from their form tutor and technology teacher, Mr Coates. In the teenage minds of Tom and Paul, Coates was this kind of evil supervillain. They ended up creating various stories and fictional anecdotes about Coates, part of which involved his secret evil organisation: ‘Coates Inc.’

“Later in life, when Tom and Paul began thinking of starting a game dev company together, they jokingly decided to call it ‘Coatsink’ as a nod to their adolescent imaginations back at school. At the time they assumed the venture wouldn’t last very long and didn’t think they’d be here over 10 years later, explaining why their 100-person studio has such a daft name.”

Sanderson has been with the company for almost four years, originally starting as their first dedicated marketing hire during the production of Shu, their first self-published game. “I’m a southerner, and I was in a hotel room asking myself what I was doing [before the interview]…but it was a perfect fit really. We’re less of a corporate body and more a group of nerds who like to make fun things.”

You’d be forgiven for thinking that now the studio is a decade old, the co-founders aren’t as hands-on, but you’d be wrong. “Paul is still heavily involved on the development side. Even though he’s one of the co-founders, he’s definitely integral to the development side of projects. When Coatsink first started, we were making a lot of iOS games. Tom did all of the art and marketing. Now, Tom and his brother Ed oversee everything and make sure we’re functioning well as a company.”

Connections made during the early years have really helped Coatsink grow, enabling them to develop games with the newest technology. “Tom befriended and mentored a student in Newcastle, who eventually started working for Oculus. We’ve launched a bunch of games across Oculus devices from Gear VR, Rift, Quest and Go over the years thanks to that. Oculus has been central to the growth of Coatsink, and without them, I don’t think we’d be as big as we are.”

Not only is the growth and impact of the studio impressive, but they’ve also managed to entice some big names to their projects, from Nick Frost to Sir Patrick Stewart. “It took a lot of determination and lead time to get Sir Patrick Stewart. We only had him for a short window. He was an absolute pleasure to work with. When we pitched it to him, he liked the concept of this time-jumping narrative [found in Shadow Point], I think that’s what grabbed him.”

Having such a packed 2020 release schedule has forced Coatsink to change tack when it comes to marketing, with the postponement or cancellation of a number of industry events. “It’s an easy win to get a lot of people in front of your game and to a collective of the press. We’re having to think digitally and find other ways to engage with people. It’s actually allowed me to spend more time with media and content creators [than I would have had otherwise]. I’m still really excited about the releases we have coming up. The community shouting about PHOGS!, Cake Bash and Get Packed has been great!”

You’ll be able to listen to the full conversation with Jack Sanderson of Coatsink in an upcoming episode of the Aardvark Swift Podcast, available now via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, third party apps and the Aswift.com website!

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