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How To Make Money Playing Video Games: From Bits to Riches

Gaming is a common hobby. But is it possible to turn it into a full-time paying job? Can you actually earn a living by owning noobs at Dota, doing amazing flickshots in Counter-Strike, or demonstrating that you and your friends have the best League of Legends tactics? Yes, you absolutely can, and you don’t even need to own expensive equipment, although having a good gaming chair won’t hurt.

For many, gaming is a legitimate job. They no longer have to wonder how to make money playing games as they’re already set for life. There are many ways you can turn this hobby into a job, from esports to content creation, so we’ve decided to cover several ways of earning money in the gaming industry. Here are some of the possible career paths a gamer can take.

Professional Gaming

Are you really good at your favorite game? Are you a bad enough dude to conquer gaming tournaments? If you answered “yes” to both of these questions, then you may very well consider becoming a professional gamer. Or, as it’s called today, an esports athlete. It’s quite a lucrative career, with the biggest tournaments and leagues offering multimillion-dollar prizes for the best players.

Granted, to earn money playing video games, you need to be exceptionally skilled at it. On top of that, the journey from playing in quick online matches to holding a trophy at Dota International or LCS is a very long one. You’ll need to start small and build up both your skills and reputation as a competitive player. A local tournament is a good start. So is the online league, or platforms like ESL and FaceIt, where you’ll get matched with various players and teams from your region. Gradually, you’ll get into leagues and tournaments with bigger prize pools and, one day, hopefully, get sponsored and play in the big leagues. Just like in sports, you can’t get rich playing video games overnight.

Choice of the game is equally important. For example, fighting games are played in 1v1 matches, but these tournaments usually don’t have such mouth-watering prizes as MOBA games and Call of Duty. If you’re solely looking for the biggest prize pools, keep a close eye on current gaming trends. There will always be some big hitters and games that are a mainstay, but the bigger the game is, the harder it is to climb the ranks.

Video Game Content Creator

If you like trying out various games, are an expert on a game, or just like talking about what’s happening in the industry, you can find success and make money gaming on one of the popular video platforms. Currently, your choice of a platform should fall on one of the big three – YouTube, Twitch, or Facebook Gaming. Both Twitch and Facebook Gaming are primarily aimed at live content, while YouTube offers both streamed and prerecorded content.

Among these three, Twitch is the platform where you’ll reach monetization potential the fastest, especially if you have a good webcam for streaming and are apt at entertaining your audience. Your channel will need to reach 50 followers and, within a single month, you need to broadcast on seven different days, amass at least 500 minutes of streamed content in total, and have an average of three or more concurrent viewers. Wondering how to make money playing video games on this platform, then? 

Once you’ve met the aforementioned conditions, your viewers can purchase monthly subscriptions to your channel at $4.99 a pop and send you Bits, Twitch’s virtual currency that acts as a tipping system. One hundred Bits converts into $1, and the platform starts sending payments once your total earnings reach $50. You can also set up a way for your audience to send you tips through a third-party method or use membership platforms like Patreon and Ko-Fi. If you manage to become a full-time streamer, you can expect additional sponsored deals and even more ways to get paid for gaming.

If you’d rather be a YouTuber, you don’t have to limit yourself to streaming. Granted, it takes a lot of work to produce an engaging video and even more to make a name for yourself in this very crowded market. But, the potential for earning big is certainly there, especially once your channel gets traction. Speaking of earnings, YouTube unlocks monetization once your channel reaches 1,000 subscribers. This lets you get revenue from ads that run on your videos, additional revenue from YouTube Premium views, allows your subscribers to purchase channel memberships at $4.99 a month, and enables you to make money playing video games during live streams via Super Chat, YouTube’s tipping system. Starting with YouTube is easy, just grab your small smartphone and start filming.

Gaming Journalism

If you know your way with words and enjoy discussing all aspects of the video game industry, you can try becoming a gaming journalist. This is a very flexible kind of job since you can become a full-time writer at one of the big websites, a regular contributor, freelancer, or video blogger. You can also focus on various kinds of content as a games reviewer, news writer, industry analyst, or scriptwriter for video content. 

Unsure how to earn money as a gamer when you’d rather have it as a side gig or a part-time job? A lot of websites and magazines look for opinion pieces and other kinds of articles that are more about the players’ experiences than traditional reviews of the played games. These can earn you a couple hundred dollars a piece if your pitch gets a pass, and are a great way to build your portfolio. Of course, getting hired as a full-time contributor nets you a much higher and stable income.

Gold Farming, Powerleveling, and Rank Boosting

This is a bit controversial, but definitely, the most direct way to get paid to play video games. MMO players know how hard it is to grind for gold, items, or just level up their alt account, so they’re more than eager to pay someone else to do it for them. Platforms like Fiverr are some of the most common places to find these jobs, as well as gaming forums. There are a few dedicated companies that hire players who’d like to play MMOs, although they take a percentage of the cut.

Another option is rank boosting in multiplayer games. This entails playing either on your client’s account or together with them and helping them improve their ranking in games such as CS, CoD, Overwatch, or Rainbow Six Siege. To earn money playing games, especially via boosting, you’d need to be really good at them and have a way to prove your prowess. Customers who seek these services are very picky and, if the booster/farmer isn’t well known enough, they may go to someone else. On top of that, game publishers look down on this. If boosting is detected, both accounts can get permanently banned. Tread carefully.

Quality Assurance for Games

For gamers seeking a career in game development, a QA position is one way to put a foot in the door. Being a video game tester is a very demanding and important job in every game’s development. For gamers wondering how to make money playing video games, this position can be a dream come true. You get to play yet unreleased games, usually during the early stages of development, and even get to play content other players won’t ever see.

Do note that this doesn’t mean playing games for fun. A QA tester usually gets handed a specific task, like playing a short section of the game and trying to “break” it any way they can, documenting any bugs and glitches they find along the way. This means you’ll be replaying a level or a boss fight over and over again, sometimes hundreds of times, through various iterations of the design. QA is definitely not just getting paid to play video games, but serious, sometimes even mind-numbing work based on time-limited contracts. Still, it’s an entry into games development, especially for people looking to become game designers and directors.

Further Reading

FAQ

How much money can you make from games?

It depends on what part of the gaming industry you work in. Heads of gaming studios and esports superstars definitely earn the most money. For example, team OG earned a $15 million prize after winning the Dota International 2019 tournament. That’s $3 million per player.

Can you actually make money playing games?

Yes, it’s absolutely possible to make a living as a gamer. A lot of streamers and esports celebrities earn six digits. Of course, you need to be the best at what you do to reach those salaries, but even with a small following and playing at local tournaments, you can earn a pretty penny.

Who is the richest gamer?

Johan “N0tail” Sundstein is considered the richest professional gamer at this moment. Just in tournament prizes, this Dota player has earned more than $7 million in his career, and this is without taking sponsorships into account.

Is gaming a career?

Yes, it can be a career like any other. If you need ideas on how to make money playing video games, consider creating video content, writing for magazines, playing at tournaments, getting sponsored as an influencer, or making your own video games. The esports scene is definitely the best choice right now, as gamers can be hired as coaches, casters, commentators, and producers at big gaming tournaments.

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