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Game Master

Jared Steffes, Co-Founder and President, Furywing Inc.

Game Master

Games have always been the business of Jared Steffes. The Chicago-area native was not content, though, to simply create video games. Beginning with his time at DePaul University—where he co-founded the DeFRAG student video-game development organization and helped develop a degree in the same discipline—he has been what TechWeek once described as a “serial entrepreneur.”

By his early 30s, Steffes had founded or co-founded NASCAR venues Rt. 66 Speedway and Chicagoland Speedway, video game developer Yellow Car Studios, and Tap.Me, a pioneer of in-game advertising, among other ventures.

As with others in the video game business, though, it was inevitable that Steffes would eventually be part of the gaming industry. That has happened with his latest startup company, Furywing Inc.—a content company dedicated to injecting the fun of the video game into casino games, iGaming and social gaming sites.

“I began getting interested in gambling games when my best friend began designing them,” Steffes recalls. “Luckily, during that time I founded a company that contextually changed advertising in mobile games called Tap.Me, and I saw a natural way to put them into slot machines on casino floors. That is when I began designing interactive casino games that I would want to play.”

Steffes’ latest venture is not your typical slot content company. “Furywing is primarily a bunch of younger people that slots do not appeal to,” says Steffes. “I came up to an ex-director from WMS (Tim Gronkowski), who is now our CTO, and said I want to make casinos look like arcades. I want them to consist of games of skill that also include a game of chance. He said it couldn’t be done. Three months later, with a prototype I proved him wrong, and have been changing the minds of his peers since then.”

Steffes’ Furywing is poised to capitalize on a trend that has been common in the slot sector of the casino industry for years—the tapping of video game expertise in the creation of interesting slot machines. It has been a common denominator in some of the most successful slot development of recent years, from IGT’s games developed by former Sega game-master Joe Kaminkow to the most recent offerings of Konami Gaming, which is a subsidiary of a legendary video game producer.

Steffes, though, intends to take the trend to new levels. “‘You can’t play a game like Halo and apply slot machine outcomes to it’ is something I continue to hear,” he says. “At least, that is, until they spend 30 minutes with me.”

Steffes states his biggest short-term goal as to “build Furywing to be the next powerhouse of gambling.” Long-term? “To move to Maui and become a philanthropist in regards to other niche startups.”

If the past is any indication, both goals are in the bag.

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