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 Much Money Can I Make 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.
He’s found a way to do what most gamers dream of doing: 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.
How to Make Money Playing Video Games
These recommendations require actually playing a video game to earn you quick 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.
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 $0.50 to $20 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.
These tournaments do come with an entry fee. The larger the entry fee, the larger the potential winnings. If you’re not very confident in your abilities, though, you can start out low-stakes. Entry fees can be as low as $1, and stretch up to $22+.
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 – including bitcoin – but will be converted to USD automatically.
2. Earn Extra Cash Through Crypto Gaming
The crypto bubble has burst for the time being, but if you’re still into digital currencies there are still some earning opportunities out there in the world of gaming.
Here are five games that will pay you to play, along with their corresponding cryptocurrencies:
- Gods Unchained: Ethereum
- Age of Rust: Bitcoin
- Axie Infinity: Axie Infinity Token & Smooth Love Potion
- Town Star: GALA coin & Ethereum
- Decentraland: MANA coin & Ethereum
Typically, the way this works is that your character(s) and sometimes their items are considered your own NFTs. Then, on some sort of in-game marketplace, you’ll be able to sell your NFTs for an amount set in cryptocurrency. Once that money is sent to your digital wallet, you’ll be able to continue keeping it as crypto or convert it to actual USD.
3. 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 will sometimes list Product Tester contract positions on its job page. There are no listings as of Oct. 2, 2022, but when they’ve been listed in the past there were 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, but must be at least 18 years old.
4. 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.
5. Create a Business on Second Life
Nineteen years later, Second Life is still kicking.
Second Life is a video game that was slated to revolutionize the internet . 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. Architects, publishers and fashion designers have used their industry knowledge to bolster their virtual businesses on Second Life. 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.
6. 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 platforms 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 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
Gaming is a whole industry. You don’t have to play to use it to make extra cash.
You could instead enter the resale market or create content around the latest gaming news.
7. 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, or get you some quick cash to make rent.
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.
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.
8. 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.
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 are ultra famous. They have just over 13,000 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.”
How to make a living in the video game industry
There are ways to make more than a side hustle income in the gaming industry. In fact, you could make a whole career out of it.
These options are not a quick-and-easy way to pick up extra cash, but after you fulfill training and educational obligations, they could lead to a career you love.
9. Video game journalist
If you’ve built next-level freelance writing skills or have a background in journalism, you could opt to become a video game journalist.
Some journalists work in-game, like the aforementioned Wagner James Au in Second Life.
But others work for more traditional publications in the real world. You could cover gaming news for any of the sites we covered in the freelancing section, or you could get a job working for the Wall Street Journal or other financial publications covering the finances and latest stock news for companies in the gaming industry.
Glassdoor puts the average salary for this profession at $64,335.
10. Video game developer
As a video game developer, you’ll be writing the code that turns an idea for a video game into reality.
According to Glassdoor, the average video game developer makes a salary of $80,439 per year, with salaries starting around $50,000 and maxing out around $131,000.
A degree isn’t always necessary to get this type of job, especially if you can prove you have some coding experience. But many more doors will open to you if you have a four-year degree in computer science or another related filed.
Coding skills you’re likely to need are C# and C++. It will also be helpful to have experience with Unity, Unreal Engine, and other like platforms.
11. Customer service at a video game company
If you really love the gaming industry but don’t have any coding experience, you could always get a job as a customer service rep.
The pay isn’t great – Glassdoor provides an estimate of $42,891 for full-time CSRs in this industry. But a job is a job, and at least it’s one in an industry where you have an active interest.
Adam Hardy is a former staff writer for The Penny Hoarder.
Pittsburgh-based writer Brynne Conroy is the founder of the Femme Frugality blog and the author of “The Feminist Financial Handbook.” She is a regular contributor to The Penny Hoarder.