There’s a lot of money to be made playing video games. With a global market expected to exceed 200 billion dollars in value by 2023, the gaming industry is alive and well. Against a backdrop of global lockdowns, next-gen console releases, and eSports millionaires, video games are experiencing a new golden age.
But you don’t have to be the next Markiplier to make bank. There’s a ton of different ways to make money gaming, and we’re going to help you find out how.
In this guide, we’ll break down how to make money playing video games as a:
Think of this as your in-game tutorial. Let’s get started!
1. Live streamer
Streaming gives gamers more control and connection with their fans than most other options. Thanks to Twitch, YouTube, and a handful of other platforms, video games have become more open, democratic, and potentially lucrative than ever, with expert streamers earning upwards of $1.5 million a year.
Of those, superstar streamers like PewDiePie reportedly make $4.5 million a month!
However, if you want to make money as a streamer, it takes a serious amount of time, originality, and persistence. Picking the right platform, getting the right gear, and understanding how to market yourself are all vital.
Let’s take a look at the platforms:
With 140 million active monthly users, Twitch is the largest stomping ground for streamers. It’s also where the lion’s share of earnings can be made as a gamer – by a mile. Full-time Twitch streamers can make over $5000 a month (before ad revenue) with the best of them earning potentially much, much more.
How to make money on Twitch
You’ll need to become a Twitch affiliate to unlock most of the monetization Twitch offers, including money from subscriptions, bits, and ads. To be invited to become an affiliate, you will need the following within the last 30 days:
- 50 followers
- At least 500 minutes streamed, over seven different days
- An average of three concurrent viewers or more
Once you’re affiliated, here’s how you’ll actually make money on Twitch:
- Subscriptions – $5/subscriber, Twitch takes 50%. So to make $100 a month playing video games on Twitch, you’ll need 40+ subscribers.
- Donations – anyone can receive a donation on Twitch. Generally, most viewers donate between $1-10, although it’s not unheard of to receive insane donations on Twitch that will make you cry/laugh/vomit with excitement.
- Bits – these are Twitch’s built-in donation system, but people don’t use them as much (since Twitch takes around 30% as a cut.)
- Ads – around $250 per 100 subscribers. Twitch will also only pay out ad revenues once they’re over $100 a month.
- Sponsorship and endorsements – varies depending on the brand and partnership. Sponsorships can include gear endorsements, or streamers being paid to play specific games. Allegedly, these can reach up to $10,000 per hour for the biggest channels.
Ultimately, Twitch is a great platform if you want to build communities and offer raw, DIY-style content. It’s also got some of the best monetization options available, and relatively broad content guidelines.
Next to Twitch, YouTube supports the widest community of video game content creators and offers some of the best monetization options. While it doesn’t pay as much as Twitch in the beginning to middle ground, at the very top end of earnings YouTube is definitely up there.
Here’s how you can make money as a YouTube streamer:
- Ads – $5 per 1000 views. As long as your content falls within the remit of YouTubes ever-changing community guidelines, you can potentially make serious money through YouTube ads. There are also a lot of options for the kind, timing, and location of ads you want to include in your videos, to help curate your channel experience better.
- Sponsorships and endorsements – popular streamers and podcasters generate thousands of dollars in revenue through paid partnerships. Typically, brands expect you to include a mention of their product and its benefits to your viewers, as well as offering some sort of incentive (like a store discount with a unique code for your channel).
- Super Chat and Stickers – similar to Twitch’s ‘bits’ donation system, Super Chat, and Stickers allow viewers to make donations with special pinned comments and emotes. Like Twitch, YouTube takes a 30% cut of the money earned this way
- Members – viewers can become paying subscribers to your channel (different to YouTubes basic ‘subscribe’ button on all videos), as long as you have at least 1,000 subscribers and are a member of the YouTube Partner Program. YouTube takes slightly less of a cut than Twitch, at just 30%, but the feature isn’t used nearly as much as it is on Twitch.
Other ways to monetize video games as a streamer
There are other ways to make money as a streamer, including alternative platforms like Facebook Gaming platform and Patreon. Facebook Gaming provides potential revenue streams in the form of subscriptions, donations, and sponsorship opportunities.
Patreon is also a great option if you want total editorial control of your content. It allows creators to assign ‘tiers’ to different subscription amounts, giving more bonus content and goodies as a user’s subscription cost goes up.
Whatever platform you choose to build your channel on, you’ll need basic video and audio editing skills and a few pieces of gear – like mics, a camera, a graphics card, and basic audio and video software.
Once you’ve got those, pick games you love playing and let your personality and enthusiasm shine through. The best streamers create original content, post regularly, and make genuine connections with their subscribers.
2. Professional gamer
The next highest-paying bracket as a gamer is to go pro. If you can dominate in one specific game, this might be the path for you. Keep in mind that a ton of esports players often have livestreams too. Factor this in with sponsorship deals, advertising revenue, and merchandise, and it’s easy to see how rising to the top as a gamer can be so lucrative.
How much can you earn as a professional gamer?
The short answer? It depends. Contrary to popular belief, pro gamers don’t make the bulk of their income through winning competitions – although it certainly helps. The top prize pools in esports are regularly in excess of $1 million, with games like Dota 2, Fortnite, and League of Legends leading the pack.
Interestingly, a lot of the most competitive esports games are also some of the most viewed content on Twitch. The takeaway? The most popular games are also the most competitive!
Tip: At the individual level, the world’s highest-paid professional gamers receive revenue from multiple outlets. Some of it comes from competing, but a lot more comes from sponsorships, endorsement, merchandise, streaming, and advertising revenue.
On winnings alone, a handful of players can claim to pull in figures above $5 million for competing. However, there are other famous professional gamers and streamers, like PewDiePie and Markipilier, who make the majority of their income from things like ad revenue and merch.
Although figures vary, PewDiePie reportedly makes between $20 million and $60 million a year!
Finally, at the team level, professional esports organizations generally offer each player an incentive package that can include a regular salary. Although the industry is pretty quiet about exact numbers, you can expect around $4,000 a month as a contracted player in a top organization.
If you have what it takes to join the ranks of a team like Team Liquid, OG, or Fnatic, expect to get paid considerably more. Just make sure you win!
How can I join a professional esports team?
Going the distance as a pro gamer is hard. The competition is relentless, and you’ll need to have crazy talent to compete with the best. But it’s possible.
Realistically, however, you’ll need to be exceptionally gifted and competitive in one or two games. On top of this, you’ll need to practice obsessively, do well in reputable competitions or leaderboards, and make a name for yourself.
3. Content creator
Being a content creator is the broadest and most accessible way to make money playing video games. If you’re creative, persistent, and have some basic video skills, content creation is the best place to start.
Typically, the most-watched gaming videos include:
- Guides, tutorials, and walkthroughs
- ‘Watch me play’ videos
- Collaborations and team games
- Easter-eggs, glitches, and rare in-game events
- Speedruns and hardcore challenges
Often, income for gaming content comes through ad revenue and paid partnerships. As we’ve mentioned, your options for monetization differ slightly depending on your platform, but the same principles apply regardless of where you build your following.
You’ll need a unique angle, bags of personality, and the ability to engage with your fans.
If you want to make money making gaming videos, you’ll need to invest a bit of cash upfront for the right gear, develop your editing skills, and be prepared to publish content regularly.
Luckily, we’ve covered this all in our guide on How to Start a Gaming Channel.
4. Selling gaming merchandise
Whether you’re a streamer, YouTuber, or esports pro, you’ll probably be thinking about merchandise of some kind. From clothing brands to 3D printed video game memorabilia, merch is a great way to connect with your fans. The great thing about merch is that you can do it either as a standalone service or as part of your wider brand identity.
It’s pretty simple to get started selling DIY merch with sites like teespring.com. You don’t even necessarily need to be a designer to start selling branded merch, as there are plenty of decent design platforms out there.
Tip: Start by searching for the kind of merch you would want to buy. If it doesn’t exist – great! That means there could be a gap in the market you could fill.
Ideally, you’ll have your finger on the pulse of a particular subculture within the gaming community, or have a passion for a particular game and its mythology. There are tons of Etsy sites where creators sell merch on every game imaginable, from Pokemon posters to Destiny ghosts. The potential is endless!
5. Video game journalist
Video game journalism is a great way to make money playing video games, with comparably fewer barriers to entry. Journalism differs from other gaming content slightly, in that it often focuses on news, reviews, and opinion-focused pieces, with a strong written element.
Typically, video game journalists write or create video reviews, provide commentary, and discuss what’s going on in the industry as a whole.
Gaming journalists can make anywhere between $15 – $50 an hour, depending on how good they are and the kind of publication they work for. You can also self-publish on your own blog or website, or choose to freelance.
In these instances, your earnings depend on things like your site visitors, viewers, and relationships with other publishers. There are literally thousands of publishers out there, from alternative tech news companies to esports analysis websites, that will pay well for decent gaming content.
Tip: A good place to start is to create video reviews and write for blogs as a side hustle. Try to find guest posting opportunities and build up your portfolio. Once you have a couple of pieces under your belt, email editors in your niche with short, succinct pitches that explain what your article would be about and why it’s relevant to their catalog.
There are also other avenues to writing about games that come with a decent salary, such as technical writer positions in major gaming companies.
6. QA tester
Fancy finding bugs for a living? No, we don’t mean becoming an entomologist. A QA, or Quality Assurance tester, basically tries to find everything that can go wrong in a video game.
Their job involves trialing different environments and characters, testing gameplay variations, and finding any bugs or glitches – then repeating this until a game is considered ready to ship.
It’s a vital part of the process because it ensures that end-users enjoy a seamless, bug-free experience (looking at you, Cyberpunk.)
From the job listings, we’ve found, QA testers make anywhere between $15 – $35 an hour, depending on experience. If you have the patience, love video games, and are process-oriented, QA testing could be the role for you.
Tip: The best place to start is by searching job boards. Get a feel for the experience needed, and try to land some freelance contract work, to begin with at smaller studios. From there, you’ll have some XP under your belt and will be able to find better positions at major studios where you can earn money playing video games.
Build your gaming brand the right way
Building a gaming channel or brand is straightforward, but it’s hard work. Whether you’re building your platform as a streamer or finding new publications to write for, the market is competitive, and it’ll take some time to get moving. Think carefully about the medium you want to work on and how this lines up with your skills and character.
From there, it’s really just a case of putting content out there, being authentic, and having fun.
The most successful people in the gaming industry have well-established brands. Including a brand name, gaming logo, branded profile images, and cover photos, and much more.
Start by designing your logo and you’ll be one step ahead of the competition. It’s more than possible to make a living gaming. Just don’t expect to become a millionaire overnight!