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How to Make Money Playing Video Games: Making Dollars from Joy Sticks

By Shane Dayton |

The idea of making money playing video games is one that has been around for decades. Until relatively recently, that was mostly a dream. Many people are surprised to learn that making money playing video games is very much a thing now. In some cases, the amount of money is quite huge. There are tournaments that go in the millions of dollars for the best players in the world. With the rise of eSports, those numbers are likely to continue to grow. So how do you make money playing video games?

There are multiple ways to do this. Making really serious money playing video games can be a challenge. This often takes good marketing, charisma-based skills, and a willingness to learn about online business in addition to being a top-notch gamer.

There are far more gamers making some money as a side hustle or who are struggling with poverty-line numbers than those clearing six figures or more. However, for those who truly love gaming and who want to know how to make money as a gamer, there are several great ways to make money playing your favorite titles.

Video Game Tester

Quality control is a major issue with video games, and this actually comes in a couple different forms. Companies need capable and avid players to test out new games before they are released on the market. The general public hates buggy, busted releases. Just Google “Fallout 76 fiasco” if you really need any evidence of that.

Good testers are going to be in demand. The question is which job are you most fit for. Are you a quality tester, or a beta tester? While both jobs are sometimes simply described as “video game testers,” there are important differences between the two.

Quality Tester

A quality tester, sometimes called a quality assurance tester, is a player who is specifically focusing on features and changes. They are looking at various designs, builds, software systems, inventory systems, and other systems used in the games.

In other words, is inventory system A better than inventory system B? Does this specific in-game mechanic make the game fun or frustrating? There’s a lot of very specific things that need to be tested. Not only for how effective they are in game play, but if they’re easy to learn, to use, and make the game more or less fun.

A quality assurance tester often needs to focus on specific parts of the game or programming choices that are being compared. The average pay isn’t anything special at $10-15 an hour on average but since most quality tester work is contract work, there are also opportunities to get your foot in the door.

Beta Tester

Becoming a beta tester is a dream job for many avid gamers. Featuring above average pay and a lot of time spent playing the game before release, beta testers get paid to play video games that have already gone through a heavy amount of quality control. This means that the programming and quality testing has already been done to a pretty advanced degree.

Beta testers aren’t spending as much time on small details and testing out certain game functions. Beta testers are actually playing these soon to be released games for extended periods of time and they are searching for loopholes, glitches, and programming errors that can result in problems. In other words, a beta tester is trying to break the game.

Be aware that unless you get picked up for a permanent position within a big company, which is rather rare nowadays, chances are you won’t get to pick and choose which games to beta test. So you may find yourself playing a large number of titles that aren’t your usual taste. However, truly good beta testers are hard to find. Playing video games for money means starting with the work you can find. Get shining reviews, build a reputation, build your connections, and you’ll be moving up the game testing world in no time!

Video Game Journalist

news typed on Typewriter

There’s no lack of demand for good content in the video game industry. Whether for an established TV station, YouTube channel, or authority website, there’s plenty of news out there on video games and always a demand for more.

One of the things to recognize about being a video game journalist is the fact that it tends to gray the line with running your own website or YouTube channel. While some stay with one main company or site, many times you’ll find yourself working for multiple employers.

This could mean freelance writing for some mid-level review sites while contacting independent game developers for interviews on your YouTube channel and streaming game reviews of your favorite retro games.

In other words, getting started takes a lot of work. While launching your own game reporting site makes sense at a certain point, you may want to start out really working for those mid-level companies to see how those websites work, why they run things the way they do, and to save the energy you’ll need to build two sources of income at once.

Being a video game journalist goes hand in hand with playing many of the games you’ll be reporting on. In addition to reviews and reporting on games themselves you’ll also get to interact with pro players, developers, and special events. This can be a great way to turn a love of gaming into a full-time job.

YouTube Videos

YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world, right behind Google. There are literally millions of videos on YouTube revolving around video game content. This ranges from play-throughs to reviews, scholarly dissertations, and everything else imaginable. Some channels have multiple games featured, while others have built an entire community around just one game.

As an example this channel is built around the Total War series. While the majority of content started specifically around Medieval Total War II, it has expanded to include other games under this brand. Dangerously Funny is a YouTuber who made pretty much exclusively Stardew Valley videos for three years before expanding to other games.

Those large channels pale in comparison to the lists of top 10 or top 20 gamer channels on YouTube which have millions of followers.

Getting momentum on YouTube takes an enormous amount of work. While getting to a thousand subscribers may sound easy, it takes a lot of work in practice to get attention, to stick out, and to get enough fans to keep the momentum going. One thousand subscribers is the magic number where YouTubers can begin to profit with ads put on their videos.

Ad revenue can be huge when talking about tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of views or more per video. YouTube even mentions video game ads as some of the highest paying. This is in large part because of how successful YouTube advertising has been for gaming companies.

That alone makes YouTube ads a great way to make money playing video games. This goes beyond just being good as a gamer – you need to be entertaining. Whether that’s through spectacular game play, witty commentary, or a great sense of humor, you need to build an audience that wants to follow you.

The good news here is that there’s something for everyone. There is a huge demand for blockbuster video game content. There’s a huge demand for retro games. Many channels do great focusing on comparing games, styles, or producing tutorials. Strategy videos are popular pretty much regardless of niche.

In other words, there’s a demand for whatever type of video game content you are interested in producing. This takes a lot of time, consistency, and effort. Not to mention learning YouTube marketing and YouTube SEO. However, the potential here is incredible.

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There are YouTube gamers whose channels have made them millionaires.

Stream on Twitch

Twitch.TV Home Page

Twitch is one of the go-to platforms for video game streamers. In fact, to many people this is goes hand in hand with a good YouTube following. Twitch is a video streaming service run by Amazon. This platform allows gamers to stream their playing live and gain followers, subscribers (paid followers), and build up their online gaming brand.

The first step is getting enough attention to make affiliate status. The requirements of that can be found here and are very reasonable. At that level each subscription to your channel nets you $2.50 a month. More important, it opens up donations as well as an array of tools to attract more followers and subscribers to your channel.

The Partner level is where things really take off on Twitch. This not only requires more subscriptions and average watch time per video but also review and approval. Partners on Twitch get a wide variety of options to help make money on their channel. This includes premium emojis that followers can pay for, direct payments from video game companies to play their new releases, as well as increased ad run options.

Even at the affiliate level many small channels with a decent following can begin getting deals from small independent game companies on free copies of games to play and review. There is an amazing array of options available. Those options only increase further at partner level.

Many channels use Twitch and YouTube in combination with one another for maximum exposure. This is a fantastic tool for video game streamers.

Professional Competitions

There are many tournaments that can be found online or are held at major events. Proving you’re good enough to enter these competitions and place means making money from playing video games. In this case, only if you’re good enough.

The catch here is obvious: you need to be one of the best in the world to make any decent money.

The high-paying tournaments are reserved for professional gamers and those who have won enough tournaments to prove themselves as being good enough to compete. For most people, even most avid gamers, this isn’t going to work.

However, there are many smaller and beginner tournaments. Websites like gamersaloon.com host small tournaments where players can sign up and compete against each other for small stakes.

This isn’t a way to make a living playing video games, but for an especially talented gamer it could be a nice side gig at the end of a long day at work.

Build a Winning eSports Team

This falls in line a bit with becoming a professional gamer. Among all the various ways to make a full-time living playing games, and not doing anything else, eSports has developed into a multi-million dollar industry.

The hardest part is getting the foot in the door with players on a game that is popular, likely to remain popular, and then prove you’re good enough. On average a professional eSports player makes between $1,000 to $6,000 a month. Top teams can score million dollar plus pots in the top tournaments in the world.

This is a serious grind that isn’t for everyone, but it will be an option for certain gamers.

Video Game Coaching

Maybe you understand some popular games inside and out. You get the strategy, you can tell at a glance what strategies other players like to use and what their weaknesses are. But maybe your reflexes just aren’t fast enough to take advantage of that.

With the huge rise of eSports and professional gaming, the demand for good video game coaching is also rising. This relies on you being able to see how to make a player’s game better and to coach them up to see actual results.

This is a rare set of skills. That said, good video game coaches are invaluable and in very high demand.

Grinding Online Economy

Online Mining

Video game worlds have become a funny thing – especially when dealing with an MMO. There are many popular MMOs that have their own in-game economy. One that is so important in those worlds that you can actually grind out “farming” in-game currency and sell it to other players who then have in-game money to buy the items they want.

This was originally popular in World of Warcraft (though the practice is now against their terms of service), however there are some where this practice is still widely practiced like RuneScape or Counter Strike.

Even beyond currency, sometimes an entire character is built up, leveled up, and then sold to a new player. This generally won’t make you a fortune, but it’s a way to sell off a high-level character you’re bored with and spin up a new one. You get to keep enjoying the fun of building up a character in a game while making money on the side.

As a more passive approach to making money playing video games, you can look at hosting a Minecraft server. One of those rare games that has continued to be popular after 10+ years, many players love Minecraft but hate running into trolls. In fact, there are so many Minecraft trolls they have their own names: Griefers. If you run a great server that you keep free of problem players, there are many Minecraft fans willing to pay good money to build in peace.

Design Your Own Game

Know question this takes a very specific set of skills. Not to mention some serious dedications. That being said, if you’ve ever wondered why no one makes a certain type of game, why not make it yourself?

When you design your game you clearly get to play your own game, testing it out as you design it and push to make it the best possible gaming experience. Especially if you’re designing a game solo, you need to be able to play your game multiple times looking for every single way to break it possible.

This helps you build your skills. As a programmer you learn more about what does and doesn’t work, tempting shortcuts, and will run into problems you can try to replicate as a game tester. Even if your own game doesn’t turn out to be the next Stardew Valley this still lets you put out a game you can earn royalties from while sharpening those skills that are attractive to bigger video game companies.

By designing your own game you’re going to not only get paid to play a video game you love, but you also will get the joy of seeing others play and enjoy your creation.

In Conclusion

Not everyone is going to be able to make a living playing video games. However, for dedicated gamers who are passionate about their gaming this is possible. Whether as a side gig, a hobby that makes money on the side, or a full-time career, there are plenty of ways to turn a love of video games into a side income. For some lucky charismatic, hardworking gamers this may even turn into the dream job they’ve always wanted!




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By Shane Dayton

Shane has been a full-time writer since 2005. Shane has a degree in English & Creative Writing from Coe College (2002) and an MFA in Creative Writing (Fiction Emphasis) from the University of Alaska Fairbanks (2007).

Shane spent years using his online writing skills to earn a living online and live the life of a digital nomad. After learning about affiliate marketing and SEO he has since created several niche sites to further increase his business income.

Want to learn step-by-step how I built my Niche Site Empire up to a full-time income?

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