Joe Kaminkow, Chief Innovation Officer at Aristocrat and Chief Game Designer at Zynga: The Legend
Fire up the Batmobile
Joe Kaminkow began his career at IGT and has made a reputation pushing the envelope on art, math, and style-making, as he says, “little movies” out of slot machines. Seeing the future of internet gaming on the horizon, Kaminkow founded his own online social gaming company before being tapped by Aristocrat to bring his games to the casino floors and create thrilling gaming experiences with great content and new-age cabinets. Kaminkow also lends his gaming expertise to the free-to-play social slots industry. He is currently Chief Game Designer, Senior Vice President of Casino Games for mobile game developer Zynga and the original creator of the company’s social slot machine games, Hit It Rich! Slots and Wizard of Oz Slots.
This episode discusses the following topics:
- Joe’s car collection, including a 1966 Batmobile car (6:00)
- His entrance into the gaming industry after college in the late 1970s and general background (9:00)
- Creative differences between creating games for social online casinos and brick-and-mortar casinos (11:00)
- How he decides where a brand should land on the volatility meter for his games (16:00)
- Taking part in the development of Wheel of Fortune slots (20:00)
- The importance of adapting machines to customer needs and making fonts readable (23:00)
- Development of the Sex and the City Games (27:00)
- What it’s like creating a game that appeals to general consumers and not just regular gamblers (28:00)
- Where Joe thinks the future of gaming hardware is headed (31:00)
- “Behind every great success, there are a thousand people saying it won’t work. Technology marches on” (35:00)
- Whether he draws some of his creative inspiration from other industries (36:00)
- “We always take inspiration from everywhere around us.” (37:00)
- Where gaming technology is generally heading (41:00)
- Impacts of the pandemic on gaming and the pent-up demand of players to go back to the casinos (43:00)
- Designing products for social gaming (44:00)
- Whether he envisions any social aspects or meta-features of gaming being introduced into the brick-and-mortar casinos (47:00)
- If he’s ever been on the casino floor and been envious of another game or concept (49:00)
- Difficulties in developing skill-based games (51:00)
- “A good game is easy to learn and difficult to master.” (54:00)
- Joe’s favorite game that he’s ever created (55:00)
- Meeting Britney Spears and other celebrities (58:00)
- Gambling stories (58:00)
“Behind every great success, there are a thousand people saying it won’t work. Technology marches on”
“We always take inspiration from everywhere around us.”
“A good game is easy to learn and difficult to master.”— Joe Kaminkow
More about Joe Kaminkow
Joe Kaminkow began his career in gaming in the early 1980s, creating video games and pinball machines for Williams Electronics. Seeing a growth opportunity in pinball games, Joe co-founded Data East Pinball in 1986. Joe could leverage his natural talent at securing licenses to create some of the most successful pinball games, including RoboCop and Back to the Future. SEGA eventually acquired the Simpsons, among many others, and the company.
After his time at SEGA, Joe moved to Reno, NV, and joined IGT, where he began developing slot machines. While at IGT, Joe revolutionized the slot industry with his use of licensed titles and exceptional game design skills. Many of the games Joe created are still on casino floors today, including mega hits Wheel of Fortune, Sex and the City, and The Price is Right. During his time at IGT, Joe was named one of the “Top 10 Most Influential People in the History of Slots”.
Joe then left IGT in 2012 to found Spooky Cool Labs, which created social casino games for the emerging social casino market. Once again, Joe utilized a key brand, the Wizard of Oz, to create a hit social casino game. Spooky Cool was eventually sold to Zynga. Joe currently remains employed by Zynga and continues developing social games based on beloved brands like Willie Wonka, the Chocolate Factory, and Harry Potter. In addition to his work at Zynga in the social casino sector, Joe also serves as Senior Advisor for one of the world’s largest casino game manufacturers, Aristocrat Technologies. While at Aristocrat, Joe has continued to develop highly successful branded games like Britney Spears, Game of Thrones, and Big Bang Theory.
More about Aristocrat
Aristocrat Gaming is the world’s number one premium provider of casino games, innovative technology, and customer experience solutions. Operating across three geographic divisions – Americas, Europe, Middle East, Africa, and the Asia Pacific – they deliver end-to-end solutions to customers in more than 300 jurisdictions. Aristocrat supports every facet of gaming floor operations from product to sales, systems, and service. Their products are famous for innovative hardware, vivid graphics, ground-breaking mechanics, and superior performance, and their creative and technical talent is the best in the industry. In addition, they strive to promote responsible gameplay to ensure a vibrant and sustainable industry.
About MaxBet Media
Two gambling enthusiasts, with a passion for all things gambling. Whether pressing our luck in the high limit room, testing the money line in the sportsbook, or just making friendly wagers on the back nine… we love to gamble! Our careers in the gaming industry have shown us that this industry is filled with some amazing people, with even more amazing stories. Our goal is to help provide a platform for those stories to be shared, while also helping everyone look good in the process.
About Landon Michael Jones
Manager and Co-Founder
Landon’s fascination with the casino industry began when he was just 12 years old and ultimately landed him in Las Vegas, where he earned a degree in hospitality management from University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). For over a decade, Landon has been involved in various aspects of the gaming industry, including operations, management, and supply & distribution.
Landon’s tenacity and passion afforded him the opportunity to serve the gaming industry’s key players and regions throughout the United States. Landon enjoys collaborating with industry leaders to create the ultimate gaming experience for the end-user.
About Mike McKiski
Manager and Co-Founder
A seasoned gaming industry executive and expert in building, marketing, and monetizing gambling related technologies, Mike McKiski currently serves as President of MaxBet Media, Inc., the digital media upstart delivering an unfiltered, authentic, and at times irreverent look at the people who are driving the gambling industry forward.
As he was founding MaxBet Media, Inc., McKiski worked for PlayAGS, Inc. (NYSE: AGS) serving as the company’s Vice President of Sales, with revenue responsibility for the Western United States and all of Canada. Under McKiski’s leadership the revenue team doubled in size and grew revenues over 300%. He is a market transformation catalyst who has been at the forefront of launching mobile and social marketing products for hundreds of casino operators across the continent.
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