Getting paid to play video games is the dream of many young gamers. While it may seem like an impossible dream, there are many people out there making some money – or even a living – off playing video games. The ways people make money playing video games are fascinating, even if you have no desire to do so yourself. From eSport athletes making six figures a year by winning tournaments in front of crowds to game testers making near minimum wage with little appreciation, the field of making money playing video games is a wide, diverse one.
This isn’t a get-rich-quick guide – competition is harsh for many of the methods here. If making money playing video games was easy, every gamer would be doing it. Quitting your job or dropping out of school and diving head first into the video game economy is not recommended.
Farm Items & Gold
Gold farming has existed for a long time. If you’re a gamer that’s played a massively multiplayer online RPG like World of Warcraft, you’ve no doubt seen spammers advertising their gold prices in-game. Item selling has existed for a long time too – Diablo 2 had an ecosystem of black market-style websites where players could sell their items to other players for cash.
Selling virtual goods went mainstream with Diablo 3 and its real-money auction house. Far from being something frowned upon that could get your account banned, virtual item and currency selling was integrated into the game. Not only was it allowed, it was encouraged – it helps that Blizzard takes $1 from each sale (15% for currency and commodities), as well as another 15% when you cash out via PayPal. It’s certainly lucrative for Blizzard themselves.
There are all kinds of anecdotes out there about the real money auction house. A Reddit user named WishboneTheDog claims he’s made over $10,000 legitimately, and includes screen captures of his PayPal account and the Diablo III auction house. On the other hand, one bot user claims he makes 80 cents per bot per hour. This causes inflation that decreases the value of gold and other item drops – it’s the kind of thing legitimate players are competing with.
Will real-money auction houses be the wave of the future, or is this an experiment confined to a single game? No one really knows. It’s clear that prices have been declining from their initial highs, however.
Win eSport Tournaments
Tournaments are a way for highly skilled players to cash in on their skill. Video games played at a professional, tournament level are often referred to as “eSports.” You might be surprised just how large the prizes are – the winning team at Valve’s 2011 DOTA 2 tournament received one million dollars. The 2011 North American Star League Starcraft 2 tournament gave away $100,000 to the winners.
It goes without saying that very few gamers make money at tournaments. The professional gamers that make it this far are dedicated and talented.
Pro-gamers can also make money through corporate sponsorship, just like Nike sponsors professional athletes and Nascar race cars are decorated with corporate branding. Companies that have sponsored players in the past include Intel, Western Digital, and SteelSeries, which develops gaming peripherals.
Become a Game Tester
Large video game companies employ video game testers, whose job it is to test games in development and report problems they find. Game-testing has been referred to as “play testing” and been glamorized in the past, and it’s easy to picture a life of playing unreleased video games before anyone else gets to, only occasionally encountering bugs that you’ll need to report.
In fact, testing video games isn’t all its cracked up to be. Job security is poor, and the pay is often barely above minimum wage. Game testers don’t necessary get to test games they enjoy, and may often end up testing a kids’ game they hate. The actual experience can be made up of performing tedious, repetitive tasks, and running into a large amount of bugs that must be written up. One game tester recounts that he’s seen people quit gaming entirely after their experience in game testing. Like other people in the video game industry, game testers often find themselves working overtime for extended periods in “crunch time” – one tester reported working 92 hours one week.
Check out IGN’s The Tough Life of a Games Tester for more information on what game testing is actually like, straight from actual game testers. This information is rare, since game testers sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs).
Share Your Knowledge
Are you an expert at a game – an MMO like World of Warcraft, for example? There are people out there who will pay you for your knowledge. Sites like Killer Guides will let you write an eBook that turns that knowledge you’ve built up into money. MakeUseOf’s own Christian Cawley has written guides there. You can try selling eBooks on other sites — like Amazon or your own website — but the market may be smaller.
Record Let’s Play Videos
Do you play lots of games? You can record Let’s Play videos, put them up on YouTube, and enable monetization to get some money when people watch your videos. It’s not quite as simple as it sounds – YouTube’s help pages informs us that:
Video game content may be monetized if the associated step-by-step commentary is strictly tied to the live action being shown and provides instructional or educational value.
Videos simply showing a user playing a video game or the use of software for extended periods of time may not be accepted for monetization.
You’ll have to provide running commentary over your entire video, not just record a video of yourself silently playing a game. It’s also not a road to riches, as competition is tough and each individual view isn’t worth very much alone. You’ll need a lot of views to make a decent amount of money.
Write About Games
The web is full of video game websites with advertisements on them, and many of them pay their writers. If you’re a decent writer with a good base of knowledge, you can try writing for one of these sites. Websites need reviews, news, and everything else people want to read about video games. Bear in mind that games journalism is a very competitive field – it attracts a lot of interested people.
You can also try starting your own blog and putting advertisements on it – we’ve published a guide to monetizing your blog.
Do you have any experience to share? Leave a comment and share your knowledge.