Joe Kaminkow, a game design engineer with Williams Electronics and co-founder of Data East Pinball (later Sega Pinball), was among the inductees of the new industry Hall of Fame. In the presentation, Kaminkow was called an industry icon and “the man singularly responsible for the permanent return of licensing pop-culture movies, plays and musical acts for amusement games.”
Kaminkow grew up in Maryland and after graduating from Curry College in Milton, Mass., he started his own game development company, Logical Highs. He soon joined Williams Electronics to expand his knowledge and skills, and quickly rose to prominence when he secured licensing rights from NASA that led to Williams’ 1984 smash hit game Space Shuttle and worked on the legendary Defender.
Noticing a resurgence in pinball games in the mid-1980s, Kaminkow – along with Gary Stern – founded Data East Pinball, where Joe quickly leveraged his talent at securing valuable licenses into a flurry of successful pinballs such as RoboCop, Back to the Future, The Simpsons, Star Wars, South Park, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Star Trek and Lethal Weapon 3.
Kaminkow joined a new industry when he was recruited by International Game Technology in 1999 to revitalize their sinking position in the slot machine industry. He revolutionized slot machines by the extensive use of licensed titles and videos. IGT rolled out his groundbreaking Wheel of Fortune video slot machine, themed after the popular game show of the same name and he won the prestigious “Inventor of the Year” award for his development of the Wheel of Fortune brand. While at IGT he continued to pioneer the licensed brand concept, bringing to casino floors ground breaking machines based on pop culture brands such as: Sex and The City; The Price is Right; and Jurassic Park.
After leaving IGT, Joe moved on to the burgeoning industry of online games, founding Spooky Cool Labs in Chicago, and developed an online Wizard of Oz city builder. Spooky Cool was soon acquired by San Francisco based Zynga, home to Farmville, Words With Friends and many other successful online games. At Zynga, he developed an extremely successful Hit it Rich online social slot, in addition to Wizard of Oz, Willy Wonka and Harry Potter match games. He was employed by Zynga as Chief Creative Officer. Joe recently resigned that position to devote full time to Aristocrat Technologies, where he first came on board in 2013, creating casino-based slot machines.
While at ATI, Joe continued his work with licensed games, bringing many pop cultural icons to life on the casino floor, including Britney Spears, Game of Thrones and Batman. Coming on full time in October 2022, Kaminkow has plans to greatly expand his vision for ATI and implement new and exciting games and concepts throughout the company.