Yes, You Can Make Money Playing Video Games. Here Are 7 Ways to Do It
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2019.
Over the years, gaming has become increasingly popular with almost all age groups. The Entertainment Software Association has tracked gamers with an annual survey since 1997, and its latest data show that more than two out of every three Americans play video games.
Perhaps what’s more surprising is that the typical gamer may not be who you think. In the U.S., more women play video games than teenage boys.
If you belong to this new wave of gamers, you’ve probably thought at some point, “There’s got to be a way to get paid for this.”
Turns out, there are plenty.
How to Make Money Playing Video Games
Frederick Aldeco was the youngest of three boys who loved to game.
Growing up, he and his brothers first fought over who could play the Nintendo, then the Super Nintendo, then the PlayStation. He could only play when his older brothers let him.
But then he got his own Game Boy. It came with Pokémon Yellow, and everything changed.
“I could play anytime I wanted to without them having an issue,” Aldeco said.
Nearly two decades later, Aldeco, 29, still loves Pokémon — so much so that he runs a Pokémon news channel on YouTube under the moniker DaddyGamer Fred.
Besides that, he’s done what most gamers dream of doing: Figured out how to make money playing video games. While it’s not his full-time gig, Aldeco said his content has earned him up to $300 a week.
These recommendations for how to make money playing video games require actually playing to earn you cash. You may need some in-depth knowledge or skills for most of these methods — but not all of them. So don’t worry if your gaming abilities aren’t esports-ready just yet. And if you’re looking for a long-term cash flow, you’re in luck: Video game industry jobs are ballooning.
1. Participate in Video Game Tournaments
The League of Legends World Championship is an esports tournament that can earn elite winners millions of dollars and millions of fans, but most gamers are not at that level and never will be.
Instead, opt for amateur tournaments to earn $5 or $10 per match. GamerSaloon is one video gaming site where you can do just that. Anyone 18 years or older can create a free account and start joining tournaments. The more you win, the more you earn.
The Penny Hoarder outlines five online video game tournaments where you can sign up and start earning – plus tips from a competitor who banked more than $45,000 in prize money.
The website is open to gamers around the world, but the system is based on the U.S. dollar. All other currencies are accepted but will be converted automatically.
2. Become a Beta Tester
Millions of people now pay for video games before they are released by pre-ordering them.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if video game companies would pay you instead to play their video games before the release date?
Actually, that’s a thing.
Several companies pay people to beta test video games to collect feedback and work out the kinks before the mass market gets its hands on it.
For the lucky gamers who live near Redmond, Washington, Nintendo partners with two staffing agencies to beta test games on-site. Unfortunately, there are no remote testing options available.
For those living outside that area, there’s VMC Consulting, a tech company that specializes in quality assurance and support. It runs a Global Beta Test Network, which tests major multiplayer video games for consoles and PCs before their release. Applicants can live anywhere, must be at least 18 years old and must use Discord (a chat messaging system for gamers) to give feedback.
3. Start Streaming
No, not on Netflix. In the video-game world, streaming has a different meaning. It refers to a live feed of someone playing a video game. Streaming services allow the streamer to interact directly with the audience via a chatroom system. Viewers can also tip the streamer in real time.
There are several free streaming services to choose from, the most popular being Twitch.tv. You don’t have to be a pro to stream, either. You just have to be entertaining. One streamer, Cory Michael — aka King Gothalion — turned his streaming hobby into a six-figure salary.
Michael said the main three sources of income are subscriptions, tips directly from viewers and ad revenue.
Even if you don’t manage millions of subscribers, streaming could still get you tips here and there, and once your channel becomes more popular, you could land a paid partnership with the streaming service.
4. Create a Business on Second Life
Fifteen years later, Second Life is still kicking.
Second Life is a video game that was slated to revolutionize the internet (before social media came along). But it’s hard to call Second Life a video game. It’s more than that.
There aren’t any overt objectives. No bosses to beat. No princesses to rescue. Instead, all of its content is user-generated, from the avatars themselves to the worlds they inhabit. In Second Life, people date, have children, build houses and travel to replicas of famous landmarks.
People spend years carving out a piece of digital paradise. Some hire real-life experts to help get it just right. In-game specialists can make bank, too. Architects, publishers and fashion designers have used their industry knowledge to bolster their virtual businesses. There’s even a journalist, Wagner James Au, who works inside Second Life and reports on in-game artists and entrepreneurs.
Second Life spawned the first video game business millionaire, Ailin Graef, and she’s not the only person to make a fortune with the game.
“There are multiple people and businesses that have made over a million U.S. dollars in Second Life over the years,” said Brett Atwood, Director of Marketing at Linden Labs, the company that created Second Life. “Many are still active.”
Since Second Life’s launch in 2003, players have spent billions of dollars of real money on in-game currency called Linden Dollars (or L$). Users can go to the Second Life exchange store to purchase L$, then use L$ for in-game services. The level of customization is incredibly granular, and users are eager to pay L$ for real-life experts to apply their knowledge to the virtual world.
Atwood said the big bucks are usually in virtual real estate and fashion.
5. Coach Others in How to Play
Are you a Starcraft god? A Fortnite legend? Share your strategies with us noobs for cash.
You can teach beginners basic lingo or coach seasoned players on the latest competitive strategies. Some online tutoring websites, Superprof for example, are general tutoring platforms that happen to allow video-game listings.
However, there are some other options that are tailored specifically for gaming lessons. Gamer Sensei is one such platform that hires senseis, aka coaches, to teach lessons in specific games, including League of Legends, Counter-Strike, DOTA 2 and — of course — Fortnite.
Making a sensei profile is free. Senseis set their own schedules and prices and have no hourly time commitments.
Other Ways to Make Money With Video Games
Maybe you aren’t comfortable with turning your hobby into a job. You want to keep it sacred and fun. That’s all right, too. You can still make plenty of money with gigs related to video gaming that don’t require you to play them.
6. Sell Video Games for Cash
Do you blast through video games? Are you constantly in search of new ones to conquer? Then you should consider selling your used video games once you’re finished.
Your pile of old games can fund your next virtual adventure, get you some quick cash to make rent, or if you’re like Aldeco, help fund your move from the U.S. to Switzerland.
The Penny Hoarder guides you through a GameStop trade-in technique that can earn you more than 50% extra cash for your used games. It’s how I turned a $72.40 cash offer for a few of my video games and a controller into $111.14.
Not a fan of GameStop? You have plenty of other options to sell your video games online and in-person. For instance, before his move overseas, Aldeco used Gameflip to downsize. He sold off all his physical games and consoles but kept the handheld devices — his trusty Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita.
Alternatively, you can sell games on eBay, but you may be stuck with a bunch of additional fees if you don’t meet the site’s minimum seller service standards.
7. Make Video Game Guides
Perhaps you’ve played a game for so long that you’ve discovered all the Easter eggs, all the glitches and all the best farming spots.
You can create guides to help people do the same, whether they’re articles or YouTube videos.
Stephen Robinson, better known by the moniker Ratty Star, creates YouTube guides for a post-apocalyptic role playing game, Fallout 76.
Several major gaming publications accept freelance pitches for video game guides and commentary, too. So if you prefer writing to video editing, give IGN, Kotaku, Escapist Magazine, Game Informer and GamesRadar+ a shot.
If you’re not a seasoned freelancer, we have a guide that walks you through how to come up with story ideas, pitch to editors and ultimately make money as a freelance writer. In the meantime, you can build up your portfolio by writing for GameSkinny, which will pay you based on how many views your articles get.
Neither Robinson nor Aldeco is famous. They have about 2,500 followers between the two of them. Getting famous really isn’t the point.
“I’m doing it because I’m enjoying the creative process,” Aldeco said. “Whenever the money comes, of course it’s a plus, but [it’s] not truly the end goal for me.”
Adam Hardy is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.