The gamer’s guide on how to make money playing video games
Around 3 years ago, I figured out ways to earn money by turning my video game obsession into a side hustle. It was finally time for me to level up.
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I’ve played video games since I got my first Atari 5200 back in 1985. It didn’t take long for my addiction to kick in. When the glorious Nintendo (NES) released, I was glued to my tube television hopping over deadly mushrooms and getting sucked inside green pipes. All I wanted in life was to play a new game.
As a grown up, that desire in me has not changed. What has changed is that now I’m the one paying for this passion. The one thing all gamers know is that it is not cheap to play. Currently, I have a 1TB PS4, two custom gaming laptops (Alienware and MSI Area 51) that cost around $3,000 each, a Nintendo Switch, and an original NES. This doesn’t include all of my other gaming gear and accessories.
Gaming is one of the biggest industries in the world with a revenue of over $150 billion. With that kind of money, be sure there are ways to cash in. Around 3 years ago, I figured out ways to earn money by turning my video game obsession into a side hustle. It was finally time for me to level up.
Here are our top ideas on how to make money playing video games.
Get Paid to Review Video Games
If you’re like me and writing is a passion, you may want to start a video game review blog.
You will need to spend money upfront to play games upon their release, then write a review within the first week. Once you gain a following, you can create a media kit that outlines key facts and statistics about your blog. You can send this out to game development and publishing companies, and potential advertisers you want to collaborate with.
What to include in your gamer media kit:
- # of monthly readers/watchers
- # of fans (loyal subscribers, followers, etc.)
- Audience demographics (age, gender, location, etc.)
- Your unique game assessment style
- Specify if you have a particular genre you focus on
- Include your blog post schedule (ie: Mondays and Fridays, 4:00 p.m. PST)
- Provide links to your social media pages (if fan base is note-worthy)
Don’t be surprised if you start getting free digital game codes in your inbox and physical copies in your mailbox. If you’re reputable and popular, companies will be generous and provide you with their games upon release. On lucky days, you may receive a game prior to its release.
Make sure to market your blog on social media platforms to increase your audience size and don’t be shy with your personality. Keep your reviews professional and fun. You can even add video reviews to your blog while simultaneously building a YouTube channel.
Become a Professional Video Game Tester
This is by far one of the most entertaining ways to nerd out. You can do this on a low-scale level, or you can become a professional game tester and earn an average of $67,813 per year. Imagine a career testing out video games?
I tried this out on a low-scale level by signing up to be a tester on modsquad.com and playtestcloud.com. Each company would reach out when they had an opportunity available. It was highly secretive and very organized.
I was able to alpha test DOOM Eternal, released in early 2020. It was amazing to feel like I was part of the production process. I also felt like a VIP playing a game that I couldn’t tell anyone that I had played. I did find some glitches while playing, and while I only earned around $20 for 2 hours of my time, I was happy that I was able to help out Bethesda Softworks.
An alpha tester identifies all possible issues/bugs before releasing the game to everyday users. The focus of this testing is to simulate real users by using BlackBox (where the tester doesn't know the game they’re testing) and WhiteBox (where the tester does know the game) techniques which carry out tasks that a typical user might perform.
Beta testing is the second phase of video game audience tests. This is where a handful of the intended players try to game out. Real users are able to provide input into the design, functionality, and usability of the game. This is the final test prior to releasing a video game.
To become a professional video game tester, you need to gain a lot of experience in this area. It will take time, but it can definitely be worth it.
Become a Quality Assurance (QA) Consultant for Gaming Companies
QA jobs are typically freelance opportunities. This is the ideal way to make money playing video games if you’re ready for a side hustle. Rates range from $15-$20 per hour depending on your experience.
QA testers will play different builds multiple times until they find the one they enjoyed playing the most. They make sure that the game holds up to the expectations of players upon the game’s release.
If you want to make this a career, you can get hired by a game development company and work your way up the ladder. Expect a salary range of $70,000 to over $100,000 once you’ve proved yourself.
Live Stream Video Games
There are a few streaming platforms that I recommend that I’ll get to in a moment. The first part of my advice is to make sure that you are properly set up to stream.
First, you need a good gaming system, followed by a fast, reliable internet service. A stable connection is of utmost importance.
How to Stream Directly from your Console
•PS4 and PS5: Stream directly to Twitch.tv or UStream.
•Xbox One: Stream directly to Twitch.tv.
•Nintendo Switch: You will need a number of extra tools, including a capture card.
If you want to stream through your PC, I strongly suggest using a dedicated video card (usually Nvidia). You then need to use streaming software such as XSplit, OBS (Open Broadcaster Software), or Streamlabs OBS. I have also used CyberLink Screen Recorder 4 for live streaming and it worked great.
Finally, make sure you have a high-quality webcam and microphone. Your audience needs to clearly see and hear you. You can choose to use a green screen behind you if you want to remove the background or replace the background with a different image.
Be yourself and make your channel entertaining.
How to make money playing video games on Twitch
Twitch is the number one platform for streaming video games. How do you make money playing video games on Twitch? There are several ways for beginners.
Fans can donate money to you. Simply add a “donate” button to your channel (I use Streamlabs), and wait for the money to roll in. Don’t expect this to be an instant way to quit your day job if you don’t want to work anymore. It takes time, work, and energy to build a fan base on Twitch.
Once you establish a consistent audience, you can sell your own merchandise via TeePublic or Spreadshop on your channel. Your fans can start wearing your logo on their t-shirts in no time!
This is an invitation-only level that you can reach after meeting specific Twitch milestones.
- Stream for at least 500 minutes in the last 30 days.
- Stream for 7 unique days in the last 30 days.
- Reach an average of 3 viewers in the last 30 days.
- Have at least 50 followers.
As a Twitch Affiliate, you make extra money through additional avenues.
Viewers have the ability to subscribe monthly to your channel. The rate starts at $4.99 and can go up to $24.99 per month. Why subscribe? You can offer special VIP perks to your subscribers such as custom emoticons, merch discounts, and exclusive chat rooms.
Also called “bits”, viewers can purchase these bits from the chat window. The rate starts at $1.40 for 100 bits. Viewers can then give virtual cheers to their favorite streamers. Streamers then receive 1 cent for every bit used in their chat.
Sell Games While Streaming
Pretend that you are streaming yourself playing Fortnite. A “buy now” button will appear on your channel where viewers can purchase the game and in-game adds-ons. Twitch Affiliates receive 5% for every purchase made through their channel.
What every Twitch streamer years for is to become a Twitch Partner. This is no easy task. I know of some committed streamers that have worked towards this tier for 3+ years. I’ve also seen some achieve this in one year. It’s up to how popular you become.
In addition to the benefits of being a Twitch Affiliate, a Twitch partner can earn money from ads. Also, when you reach this much popularity, you are able to get endorsement deals and brand sponsorships.
To become a Twitch Partner you must reach these milestones.
- Stream for at least 25 hours in the last 30 days.
- Stream for 12 unique days in the last 30 days.
- Reach 75 average viewers in the last 30 days.
When it comes to marketing yourself, make sure you are on multiple social media platforms to promote your channel.
One thing that worked for me was to wear a Twitch hat or shirt in public, which typically brought on comments such as, “Cool! I’m on Twitch too. What’s your handle?”
I would then give them my “business” card with my info and custom logo on it. If you cannot design a logo for yourself, there are some reputable artists on Fiverr.com that can create one for you. This simple strategy helped me become a Twitch Affiliate in less than 2 months.
How to make money playing video games on Facebook Gaming
You may not have heard of Facebook gaming, so let me give you a brief history lesson.
Ninja (Tyler Blevins), one of the most popular streamers in the world, earned around $500,000 to $1 million per month on Twitch through its monthly subscriber program.
The gaming community was shocked in 2019 when Ninja left Twitch to join a brand new platform called Mixer by Microsoft. I wasn’t shocked when I found out that Microsoft agreed to pay Ninja between $20-$30 million per year to play exclusively on Mixer. This was Microsoft’s attempt to quickly gain a lot of attention for their new venture. It briefly worked.
While Ninja’s fame helped boost Mixer, Twitch remained number one. Microsoft struggled to reach the scale needed for Mixer to compete with Twitch. During the summer of 2020, Microsoft shut down Mixer and partnered with Facebook Gaming. This transitioned existing Mixer viewers and streamers over to Facebook Gaming.
If you have switched over to Facebook’s recent design change, you will notice that Facebook Gaming is highly featured. It’s simple to sign up and get started. One great feature is that you can build followers quickly by connecting your Facebook friends with your Facebook Gaming page.
Facebook pays creators $0.01 per Star they receive from viewers. Viewers can buy 100 stars for $1 and they also have the ability to pay $4.99 per month to subscribe to that streamer’s page, similar to how Twitch works.
How to make money playing video games on YouTube
One word: monetization.
Monetization includes company advertisements (pre-roll ads) that play at the beginning of your videos. You get paid each time a viewer watches an ad all the way through. The actual rate varies between $0.10 to $0.30 per view.
Before you are allowed to use YouTube monetization, you will need to acquire more than 1,000 subscribers plus 4,000 total video views over a 12 month period.
Once you become a YouTube Partner, you can reach out to gaming and industry-related companies to sponsor your videos.
There is an incredible amount of money you can make as a YouTuber. One of my favorite streamers on YouTube is Markiplier (Mark Fischbach). Each year he earns between $10-18 million dollars, and he even has a high-end athleisure brand for gamers called Cloak.
Professional Advice from Real Life Video Game Streamers
I was super stoked to get advice from my favorite Twitch streamer, Dayeanne Hutton (@Dayebraham_Lincoln on Twitch). Dayeanne also happens to be the voice actress of Kate Marsh in the award-winning game, Life is Strange by DONTNOD Entertainment.
When it comes to Dayeanne, I’m entertained by the lively personality she adds to her streams. I admire how she talks to her fan base like friends. She makes you feel personally connected, instead of just another number. Dayeanne is also no stranger to marketing and networking.
“Twitch is still kind of the Wild West in terms of visibility,” Dayeanne shares with TSR. “There are no tried and true ways to be seen like on other platforms. Because of this, I’d say the best advice I can give is to be true to yourself and what makes YOU happy. You most likely aren’t going to have an audience and income at first. Figure out what makes you happy to do it and like-minded people will follow. Don’t forget to network! This is a big community of nerds, so find your squad.”
Another Twitch streamer that I follow, and know in real-life, is Amber S. (@OneUpOrShutUp on Twitch). I have watched her grow her audience faster than many other streamers. I reached out to her to gain insight.
Amber matter-of-factly stated, “Consistency is key. Post your streaming schedule and do your best to stick to it.”
I completely agree with this. That was one of my downfalls with my Twitch channel. Life got too busy, and I would skip streams. Stick with Amber’s advice to really get your channel going (and growing).
Make money by competing in Video Game Tournaments
Sites like gamersaloon.com and playerslounge.co allow gamers to pay a minimal entry fee to compete against each other players for the chance to win cash prizes.
If you’re highly skilled, then maybe you’re ready to sign-up for a larger-scale gaming tournament. There is plenty of money to be made via that route.
For instance, when Epic Games hosted the 2019 Fornite Tournament, the $3 million grand prize was awarded to 16-year-old Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf. Kyle beat out the competition in front of 2 million viewers.
If you watch UFC, then you’re probably familiar with Sean O’Malley who was suspended for a USADA doping violation. He now earns around $4,500 a month playing video game tournaments at home.
Design and Sell Gaming Merchandise
If you are an artist, you may want to look into creating merchandise that you can sell on an e-commerce website like Etsy.com.
Etsy is perfect if you make physical art that you will need to ship out. Whether it’s a custom Funko of a video game character or a Legend of Zelda music box, plenty of people are looking to purchase gaming goods.
If you are able to create costumes and make jewelry, there is a huge opportunity out there to make a big profit selling custom character clothing and accessories to cosplayers.
If you are a digital artist, Redbubble.com is a great place to add your artwork to shirts, coffee mugs, pillows, and even duvet covers. It’s very simple to set up and you could start making money within 24 hours.
Since orders will role in at any time, you are still “technically” making money while playing video games.
How to make a salary playing video games
If you are looking to devote yourself completely to the gaming world, going beyond a side hustle and making it a career is probably your path.
Thankfully, there are plenty of options when it comes to working in the gaming industry. If you want to earn a solid salary while still playing video games, I recommend the following two options.
Get Signed to Join an eSports Team
Extremely popular, eSports is a global behemoth in the online gaming world. Goldman Sachs expects the industry to triple by 2022, earning a staggering $2.96 billion.
To get on a team, you’ll need to do three things.
- Be a highly skilled gamer.
- Have a decent fan base on a streaming platform.
- Specialize in a specific game, such as Call of Duty or League of Legends.
The average salary for an eSports team player is around $3,000 to $5,000 per month. Top ranking players can earn up to $15,000 for a single competition plus bonuses. Since this is a professional career, some eSports team players also receive health insurance and retirement plans.
Make roughly $80,000+ as a Game Developer
Game Developers typically earn around $80,000 if they decide to work for a larger, game development company. If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, and extra cash, then you can start an indie game development company to create your own games.
Learn from my personal game development side hustle story:
I am a serial entrepreneur that knows the importance of multiple streams of income. While I enjoy having a solid day job, I juggle several side hustles in my off time. One of those is Shaka Brah! Games. I started off with developing a mobile, motorbike racing game to test the market with. With the extreme amount of competition, my game gained traction the first two weeks through ad marketing, then it pretty much flopped.
I also thought I would earn decent money through in-game advertisements. By the end of the first year, I was still in the negative. The lesson that I learned was that I needed a lot more money for marketing and I needed to create a big buzz about the game months prior to its release.
Currently, I am developing a paranormal escape game that recently had a successful Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign. I raised enough to fund the completion of development, design, and to market the game properly. I also raised the stakes, as this game will release on mobile and Steam for PC and MAC. I also hired well-known gaming voice actors to increase the overall quality and further my promotional strategy. The release of this game will not be until December of 2021. I’m taking my time to do it the right way.
How to Get Started in Game Development
There are plenty of Universities out there where you can obtain a degree in Game Development. The good news is that you do not need a college degree in order to pursue this career.
An option is purchasing courses from professional instructors off of Udemy.com. I am a big fan of this website and have significantly increased my knowledge from their courses.
They have a giant library you can freely roam and preview courses to make sure you like the instructor and that the course offers what you are looking for. The best part is that you can move at your own pace. I was able to complete courses in Unreal Engine 4, Maya, Unity, and Blender in one year.
I am more interested in the design aspect, as opposed to the development side. If you feel like you are more right-brained than left-brained, Game Design is something to check out.
Game Designers start at around $60,000 per year, but you can climb to a six-digit salary depending on your experience and expertise.
What’s your next move?
If you have any experience on how to make money playing video games, go ahead and comment below. If you have any questions, feel free to comment and I will answer you personally.
At this point, you should know a lot more about how to make money playing video games. Time to level up!