While you can make money playing video games, it isn’t easy. Here are some options and whether they’re right for you. In today’s world, it’s certainly possible to make money playing video games. But the truth is that it’s hard work.
Many who go this route will give up within a few years (or months) because the work aspect kills the fun of playing video games. Instead of doing what they love, they end up hating what they once loved. And it’s risky due to the crowded market. For every success story, there are hundreds of others who tried and failed.
It’s not something we’d recommend unless you are young, single, and willing to commit several years knowing that it may all be for nothing. But it’s certainly possible! Here are several potential ways you can start earning money by playing video games.
Anyone can stream their gameplay in real-time for the world to see. Aim to build a large audience (which you can monetize with ads) or a loyal audience (to monetize with donations and subscriptions). The biggest platform for streaming is Twitch, but YouTube is also an option.
Fortunately, the barrier to entry for streaming is relatively low. All you need is a decent computer, some games that viewers want to watch, a fun personality, and streaming software. Make sure your internet upload speed is fast enough to handle the stream, in addition to whatever game you’re playing.
Fancy yourself a writer? Either join an existing site or launch your own and start writing news, reviews, and interviews for a specific game, genre, or industry. If writing for an existing site, you can get paid on a per-article basis as a freelancer. If starting your own site, you can monetize your traffic with ads, Patreon subscriptions, or similar.
Look for open positions at intermediate-sized gaming sites. Forget major gaming sites like IGN for now, and ignore startups that have no readership. Make sure you have some writing samples on hand. Send in your application (with writing samples included) and hope for the best. If you don’t have any samples, consider volunteer writing for smaller sites first.
We don’t recommend launching your own games journalism site until you have several years of experience writing for an established site. Writing day in and day out is hard enough. Managing a site on top of that? That’s a whole new level of effort that can easily lead to burnout.
Newbies love reading guides, especially for multiplayer player-versus-player (PvP) games. You can take several routes, such as creating a website for written guides, uploading video guides to YouTube, or publishing guides as ebooks. The first two are often monetized with ads and/or donations, whereas the ebook route earns revenue through sales.
Find a popular game, figure out what players are having trouble with, learn the ins and outs of that problem, then teach others how to overcome it themselves.
In massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs), aim for gold guides, leveling guides, and raid guides. For PvP games like Overwatch or Valorant, go for build guides and mechanics guides. And for single-player games, you’ll probably have the most success with focused guides on topics like earning a certain Achievement/Trophy.
Have a lot to say? Try creating a daily, weekly, or monthly show related to gaming. It could be an opinion-based roundtable discussion, a series of interviews with high-profile players, tips and tricks for a specific game, or anything else that’s interesting.
We’ve written about starting your own podcast and starting your own YouTube channel. These are good resources to start with.
Tournaments are commonplace for PvP games. Of course, the more popular the game, the larger the prize pools become. If you’re skilled enough to join an eSports organization, you may be able to earn a livable salary through winnings and sponsorships. Most competitive gamers also take advantage of live streams (#1) for additional income.
Find a popular PvP game with lots of tournaments and heavy interest from eSports organizations. Practice, practice, and practice some more. As you get better, network with other professional gamers to get your name out in the open.
Being completely realistic, you’ll likely have better luck (and earn more money) pursuing a career as a non-competitive streamer. That way, people will still enjoy watching you even if you’re not the absolute best.
Games go through various phases of development before they’re released. Near the time of completion, developers need outsiders to playtest their games with fresh eyes. As a playtester, your job is to check over everything the developer wants you to look at, which includes finding and documenting bugs and other issues.
For on-demand playtesting, look into services like PlaytestCloud, BetaFamily, and BetaTesting. Becoming an internal tester at a company is tougher. You’ll have to browse job boards, research companies for open positions, send in applications, and hope for the best.
If you’ve spent enough time in some games, you might be able to “flip” your account or in-game items to other players. As one example, you can resell some Steam Trading Cards earned by playing games to players who want to collect them. While you won’t make huge money from this, you might be able to earn enough to cover your next game purchase.
You may also be able to sell accounts. For example, in Overwatch, the practice of using a “smurf” account (a secondary account that’s ranked much lower than the player’s actual skill level) is common. Since you must reach a certain level to play Competitive matches, players who want to smurf might look to buy an account to save themselves time. Similarly, a player might pay you to rank up their account if you’re more skilled than them.
Research the games you like to play and see what items from it sell for a good price. A site like PlayerAuctions helps connect buyers and sellers of gaming items.
Games are fun because they give us a way to escape reality. When gaming becomes your job, that aspect of escapism disappears—and likely so will the fun. Love playing games? Think carefully before turning it into a potential career. You may come to regret it.
If you still want to forge ahead, the opportunities discussed here are the best ways to make a gaming-related living right now. Of course, there’s always the option to make your own game and earn money through sales, as well as in-app purchases or ads. But games take a long time to develop and require a totally different set of skills.