If you could get paid to play video games, would you do it? It’s definitely possible—thousands of people do it every year—but your options are pretty limited and it may not be as fun as you think. 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 or video game testing. Direct income comes directly from a particular game.
This article is about direct income. Here are some games 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.
CS:GO, Dota 2, Team Fortress 2
Team Fortress 2 (TF2) was Valve’s chosen franchise to spearhead their “cosmetic item market” approach to revenue, who then took it to new levels in Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO). One could say that Valve’s execution of the cosmetic item market idea really drove the success of these games.
In short: cosmetic items (called “skins”) make you look different in-game. Some items look cooler than others, and some items are so cool that players are willing to pay money to acquire them. By engaging in item trading (also known as “skin trading”), you can exchange the items you have (earned by playing the game itself) with another player for real dollars. This is all permitted—even encouraged—by Valve.
This is done through the Steam Community Market, which is an official marketplace run by Valve where you can put cosmetic items up for sale and earn Steam Wallet funds.
CS:GO, Dota 2, and Team Fortress 2 are the most popular Valve games, but the Market supports dozens of other games: PUBG, Rust, Black Squad, Unturned, and more.
Note: Steam Wallet funds cannot be withdrawn, so whatever money you earn can only be spent on Steam games or other items for sale on the Steam Community Market.
If you do want to trade skins for real-life cash, you can use a third-party site like BitSkins (withdrawal by PayPal, Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bank Wires) or StoneFire (withdrawal by PayPal and Bank Wires). These sites take a percentage cut of every transaction. Third-party sites can be risky, so exercise caution when trading!
Skin markets like these are one of the easiest ways to earn money by playing games.
Second Life is a uniquely social MMORPG that debuted way back in 2003. Does anyone even talk about it anymore? Hasn’t it fallen off the radar? To my surprise, not only is Second Life still 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 passive, such as sitting on camping chairs, while others are active and require certain skills, 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$ 250 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. Also launched back in 2003, this game isn’t a pure social world like Second Life—there are actual gameplay elements (e.g. hunting, missions, crafting, etc.) so it does feel more like a traditional MMORPG than Second Life.
The in-game 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 services necessary.
In a very real way, Entropia Universe is the closest thing you’ll find to a game whose economy is inherently connected to the value of real-world money. But whether the game is fun enough to warrant the effort? Only you can decide.
Other Ways to Get Paid to Play Games
It must be said: regardless of which of these games you decide to play, there’s no guarantee that you’ll actually make a profit on your time—and an even smaller chance that you’ll earn more than minimum wage.
Want to make money playing games? You’ll have to sink a lot of hours in, which can easily turn fun gameplay into hard work. You might hear the occasional story of a player who earns thousands of dollars per month, but they are the exception.
Are there any other games out there that allow players to make money from gameplay? Note that there are several other ways to make money playing games, including streaming, Let’s Plays, podcasts, esports, and more.