If you could make a living by playing video games, would you do it? It’s definitely possible – hundreds and thousands of people do it every year – but your options are pretty limited and it may not be as fun as you think it’ll be. Still interested? Keep reading.
Before we begin, let’s make a distinction between indirect and direct sources of income from video games. Indirect income doesn’t come from a particular game but outside activities that can be applied to any game, such as streaming, blogging, and testing. Direct income is specifically tied to a certain game.
This article is about direct income. Here are some titles that have elements of real money transaction built right into the game’s core design, allowing you to walk away from a gaming session with a few more dollars in your pocket.
Team Fortress 2 & Dota 2
Team Fortress 2 (TF2) was Valve’s chosen franchise to spearhead their “cosmetic item market” approach to revenue. The market concept itself wasn’t new, but Valve’s execution of the idea is what really drove the game’s success.
In short, cosmetic items make you look different. Some items look cooler than others. Some items are so cool that players are willing to pay money to acquire them. Therefore, by engaging in item trading, you can exchange your goods with another player for real dollars. This is all permitted, even encouraged, by Valve.
But there’s more. Earlier this year, Valve disclosed that over 90% of the items in TF2 were actually created by players. Thanks to the Item Workshop, users can submit models and textures to be voted on by the community. Those that succeed are sold in the TF2 store and the creators receive a cut of the profits.
Item trading and workshop creation both also exist in Valve’s other free-to-play game, Dota 2.
Second Life is a uniquely social MMORPG that debuted over a decade ago. Does anyone even talk about it anymore? Hasn’t it fallen off the radar? To my surprise, not only is Second Life going strong, but it has a strong player-centric economy from which you can make real money.
It all revolves around the in-game currency, Linden Dollars (L$). Players can earn L$ by engaging in various activities in the game. Some activities are quite passive, such as sitting on camping chairs, while others require skill, such as creating virtual content and trading virtual real estate.
Some players would rather save time and spend cash for L$, so you can sell your surplus L$ to other players on the LindeX Currency Exchange for real money. The exchange rate changes based on supply and demand, but tends to hover around L$ 260 for every $1 USD. With time and perseverance, it’s possible to make a profit on the Exchange.
There’s another MMORPG in the same vein as Second Life that’s built on a real cash economy: Entropia Universe, formerly known as Project Entropia. This game isn’t a pure social world as there are actual gameplay elements (e.g., hunting, missions, crafting, etc.) so it does feel more like a traditional MMORPG than Second Life.
The currency is called Project Entropia Dollars (PED) and exists at a fixed exchange rate of 10 PED per $1 USD. What’s unique about Entropia Universe is that PED can be directly withdrawn into a bank account – no middleman necessary. In a very real way, Entropia Universe is the closest thing you’ll find to a game whose economy is directly related to actual money.
EVE Online differs from the other games on this list because you can’t actually withdraw cash. However, if you play the game well and know how to maximize your gameplay efficiency, you can end up playing the game for free (it normally costs a $15 USD monthly subscription).
Here’s how it works. Players can purchase an in-game item called a Pilot’s License Extension (PLEX) with cash. PLEX has a few uses, the main one being that it will add 30 days of game time to your account. The best part is that PLEX can be traded with other players for in-game currency, Interstellar Kredits (ISK).
Therefore, it’s possible to play for free as long as you can make enough ISK before your game time runs out. That’s just one of several reasons why you should play EVE Online.
In all of these games, there’s no guarantee that you’ll make a profit. Want to make money playing games? You’re going to have to sink in a lot of hours, which can eventually turn fun gameplay into work. There are stories of people who earn thousands of dollars per month, but they are the exception. Keep that in mind!
Are there any other games out there that allow players to make money from gameplay? Diablo III’s real-money auction house would’ve been a great example if it hadn’t shut down just a few months ago. Share your thoughts with us in the comments!