It is certainly possible to earn money by playing video games in today’s world. But the truth is that doing so is difficult.
Many people who take this path will give up after a few years (or months) because the work aspect takes away the fun of playing video games. People end up hating what they once loved instead of turning it into a career. It’s also risky because of the crowded market. Hundreds of others tried and failed for every success story.
Earning your primary income through gaming is not something we would recommend unless you are young, single, and willing to commit several years, knowing that it could all be for naught.
But it’s not impossible!
Here are a few ways to start making money by playing video games.
1. Get Paid to Live Stream
In today’s world, it’s certainly possible to earn money by playing video games. But the truth is that doing so is 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 turning what they love into a career, people 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.
Earning your primary income by playing games is 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.
1. Get Paid to Live Stream
Anyone can broadcast their game play in real-time for all to see. Aim for a large audience (which you can monetize with ads) or a dedicated audience (to monetize with donations and subscriptions). Twitch is the most popular streaming platform, but YouTube is also an option.
Why It’s Difficult to Earn Money by Streaming Games
Building a live-stream audience takes time. You might not get more than ten concurrent viewers for several months, and you might not get more than 100 viewers at once for years. The reality is that most streamers never get to that point, and earning a living by streaming video games requires thousands of regular viewers.
The streaming market is saturated. Why should someone watch you when there are so many other popular streams? That is the difficult part. Set yourself apart by having your sense of humor or personality, being a world-class player, or playing games that no one else is.
Fortunately, the entry barrier to streaming is relatively low. All you need is a good computer, some games people want to watch, a friendly demeanor, and streaming software. As well as having a powerful enough PC for whatever games you’re playing, ensure your internet upload speed is fast enough to handle the stream.
We’ve shown you how to get started with Streamlabs OBS, which is a great beginner option for PC gaming.
If you want to play on a console, you’ll need a capture card, which is an extra cost.
2. Try Your Hand at Games Journalism
Do you consider yourself a writer? Join an existing site or start your own and begin writing news, reviews, and interviews about a specific game, genre, or industry. You can be paid per article as a freelancer if you write for an existing site. If you’re starting your website, you can monetize it with ads, Patreon subscriptions, or something similar.
Why It’s Hard to Make Money Writing About Video Games
Games journalism, like most forms of journalism, is competitive. Many people want to make a living by writing about games! If you’re writing for an existing site, you’ll likely have to work for next to nothing while building a portfolio and demonstrating your abilities. Starting your website will take years to build an audience large enough to support you.
Journalism can be demanding. To get scoops before others, you’ll need to tap into various sources around the clock for news writing. Reviews and interviews take a significant amount of time to complete properly. Writing every day can also be a significant drain on mental energy.
Look for open positions at medium-sized gaming establishments. For the time being, disregard major gaming sites like IGN, as well as startups with no readership. Make sure you have some writing samples available.
Send in your application (including writing samples), and hope for the best. If you don’t have any previous experience, consider volunteering to write for smaller websites first.
We don’t recommend starting your own games journalism site until you’ve spent several years writing for an established site. Writing every day is difficult enough. On top of that, you’re running a website. That requires a whole new level of effort, which can quickly lead to burnout.
3. Create Video Game Guides and Tutorials
Many newcomers to certain games enjoy reading guides, particularly multiplayer player-versus-player (PvP) titles.
As a result, there is a market for making money by providing useful information that these people want to learn.
For game guides, you have several options, including creating a website for written guides, uploading video guides to YouTube, and publishing guides as ebooks. The first two are frequently monetized through advertisements and/or donations, whereas the ebook route generates revenue through sales.
Why It’s Challenging to Earn Money Through Gaming Guides
Anyone can write a guide. To make any money, you must create guides for popular games—but the more popular the game, the more competition you will face. You’ll need to provide more insight than others to set your guides apart, which means putting in a lot of time and positioning yourself as an expert.
You’ll also need excellent writing skills. Guides must be dense and comprehensive while also entertaining and understandable. Formatting skills are essential for writing for the web or publishing ebooks.
For example, the GameFAQs “Bounty Program” pays you money if you are the first person to write a comprehensive walk through for a game. The majority of these guides are paid at least $200, which sounds fantastic. However, considering how much time you’ll need to spend mastering the game and explaining every detail, you’ll earn far less than the minimum wage per hour.
Find a popular game, figure out what problems players are having, learn the ins and outs of that problem, and then teach others how to overcome it.
Aim for gold, leveling, and raid guides in massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs).
Go for build and mechanics guides for PvP games like Overwatch or Valorant. And, for single-player games, you’ll probably have the most success with topic-specific guides, such as earning a specific Achievement/Trophy. Guides for getting started are popular, but they face stiff competition.
4. Host a Gaming Podcast or YouTube Channel
Do you have a lot to say? Create a gaming-related daily, weekly, or monthly show. It could be an opinion-based roundtable discussion, interviews with high-profile players, game tips and tricks, or anything else that piques your interest.
Ads, sponsorships, and other forms of YouTube monetization can be used to monetize podcasts and YouTube videos. This format, in particular, can be supported through Patreon subscriptions.
Why Earning Money With Gaming Shows Is Tough
You’ll need to build a sizable audience before you start making money. Your show must be interesting enough for people to watch it. The show will fail if it is a boring, shallow, has poor production quality, or is inconsistent.
In some ways, this is a cross between guides (#3) and live streams (#1). You must have the knowledge and insight of a guide creator, as well as the tenacity and charisma of a streamer.
On the plus side, podcast content does not have to be as in-depth as a guide, nor does your personality have to be as distinct as a streamer’s. You could, for example, dedicate a channel to gaming news about a specific genre. You won’t have to entertain people for hours but must stick to a regular schedule.
We’ve written about how to start your podcast and how to start your own YouTube channel. These are excellent starting points.
5. Win Gaming Tournaments and Acquire Sponsorships
Tournaments are common in PvP titles, such as fighting games. Of course, the larger the prize pool, the more popular the game. If you’re good enough to join an esports organization, you might be able to make a living off of winnings and sponsorships. Most competitive gamers also use live streams (#1) to supplement their income.
Why It’s Not Easy to Make Money Through Video Game Tournaments
Not everyone is cut out to win. You can be a world-class player and still be eliminated early in a tournament, leaving with no winnings. Even if you win money, it may not be enough to cover the cost of hotels and flights. If you aren’t consistently at the top, don’t expect to live off your winnings.
Furthermore, the esports industry is still in its infancy. Even if you land a position on a prestigious team, your “salary” may be less than the minimum wage. Con artists and thieves prey on unsuspecting gamers in the industry. There have been reports of players not being paid what they were promised.
Find a popular PvP game with a lot of tournaments and a lot of esports interest. Practice, practice, and more practice. Connect with other professional gamers to get your name out there as you improve. Consider starting small with local tournaments for popular games like Super Smash Bros. or Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
You’ll probably have better luck (and earn more money) as a non-competitive streamer. That way, people will still enjoy watching you even if you’re not the best.
6. Get Paid to Test Games
Before a game is released, it goes through several stages of development. Near the end of the development process, developers require outsiders to play test their games with fresh eyes. Your job as a play tester is to review everything the developer wants you to look at, including finding and documenting bugs and other issues.
Why It’s Difficult to Earn a Living by Testing Games
Becoming a tester these days is not difficult, but it can be mind-numbing work. Playing in such a way that you intentionally break games becomes tedious quickly, especially if you have to keep checking the same locations after each game revision.
The pay is not very good (on par with, or slightly better than, minimum wage). Unless you can land an internal position at a large game development company, most game testing jobs are for mobile games, which aren’t as exciting as full-fledged console and PC releases.
Look into services like PlaytestCloud, BetaFamily, and BetaTesting for on-demand playtesting. It is more difficult to become an internal tester at a company. You’ll have to look through job boards, research companies for open positions, apply, and hope for the best. Looking for indie studios in your area can help you get your foot in the door.
7. Sell Accounts or Digital Items
You may be able to “flip” your account or in-game items to other players if you’ve spent enough time in some games. You can, for example, resell some Steam Trading Cards earned by playing games to players who want to collect them. While you are unlikely to make a fortune from this, you may be able to earn enough to cover your next game purchase.
Accounts may also be available for sale. In Over watch, for example, it’s common to use a “smurf” account (a secondary account ranked much lower than the player’s actual skill level). Because you must reach a certain level to play Competitive matches, players who want to smurf may consider purchasing an account to save time.
Similarly, if you’re better at the game than them, a player may pay you to boost their account’s skill rating.
There are other options; you could use sites like Fiverr to sell “gaming services” to interested people. Perhaps someone is lonely, wants a partner to hang out with for an hour, and is willing to pay for the privilege.
Why It’s Tough to Make Money Gaming This Way
While this gaming income requires less dedication than most of those mentioned above, it is far from ideal.
Unless you already have extra accounts or rare items, the time required to earn them makes it barely worthwhile to pursue.
Grinding a game to earn new cards or reach a certain level, like play testing, is tedious. There’s also no guarantee that anyone will want to buy what you offer.
Depending on the terms of service for a specific game, selling your account or other items may be prohibited. Before you try this, make sure you’re not doing anything incorrectly.
Look into the games you enjoy playing and see what items sell for a good price. A site like Player Actions facilitates the exchange of gaming items between buyers and sellers.
Earning Money by Playing Video Games Is Still Work
Games are enjoyable because they allow us to escape reality. When gaming becomes your job, that aspect of escapism vanishes—and with it, the fun. Do you enjoy playing video games? Consider it carefully before turning it into a possible career. You may regret pursuing these methods of earning money from video games.
If you still want to go for it, the opportunities discussed here are the best ways to make a living in the gaming industry. Other careers in the video game industry exist, but they do not require as much actual game-playing as the ones listed above.
Of course, you can always create your own game and earn money through sales, in-app purchases, or advertisements. However, games take a long time to develop and necessitate a completely different set of skills.