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16 Ways to Make Real Money Playing Video Games & eSports in 2022

Updated: Jan 19, 2022

In the early 2000s, earning a living from gaming was considered a dream. The gaming industry had restricted monetization opportunities, not merely for players but also game publishers and developers.


Furthermore, the eSports industry was in its infancy, and competitive gaming was barely known outside a core group of very engaged fans and players.


Things have since changed, and eSports has increasingly grown in popularity, with multi-million dollar tournaments held across the globe. It isn't just limited to competitive gaming either. There's been a dramatic increase in the number of people who've made lucrative careers through live-streaming video game content on popular websites such as YouTube and Twitch.


If you're looking to generate an income from your favorite pastime, here are some great avenues to consider.



16 Ways to Make Money Through Gaming


1. Quality Assurance Tester

Ultimately, video games are the outcome of computer programming - getting a computer to render graphics correctly, animate characters, allow players to communicate, carry out complex AI operations - the list is endless.


To accomplish this, game design studios require testers to play their pre-release games and offer a comprehensive review of the various key metrics of their product.


That's where a quality assurance tester comes in.


Developers and designers need to understand users' sentiments about an upgraded version of a popular game or a new game and not merely whether some technical issues exist. Video game companies depend on external testing panels for game exploration, especially during late-phase development but before the game's public launch.


In an era of digital launches and widespread social media discussion, these testers can help detect and fix issues that would otherwise result in a botched launch, which in turn could be catastrophic for sales figures and the game studio's reputation.


Quality testers don't merely play a game through to the highest possible level. Instead, they play different builds and designs numerous times to determine the most addictive and satisfying gameplay loops and how well specific systems integrate.


When testers have nothing significant to report, then the game is ready for launch.


Remember that most QA tester roles are contract-based, so this is not an option if you are looking for stable employment or to get rich quickly. Nonetheless, payment ranges between $10 and $15 hourly, which is better than the average minimum-wage job - and certainly more fun.



2. Creating Gaming Tutorials

You can generate money by offering tutorials on how to play video games. Your streaming site or YouTube channel will earn money from visitors that click on it. Most newbies to a game enjoy reading guides, particularly for competitive multi-player games.


In the past, experts wrote gaming guides and tutorials in the form of blogs or ebooks. However, most modern tutorial-makers prefer using YouTube. While this initially took precedence because of the freedom video editing gave creators, it also profoundly resonated with an audience thanks to the advent of live-streamed Q&A sessions, quick tips & tricks through Youtube Shorts, and the relatively hassle-free earning methods.


Ebooks generally work best for older, niche games such as World of Warcraft but have largely been phased out as the industry becomes much more digital. On the other hand, video content creators can benefit through Youtube's ad monetization plans or opt for external patronage through websites such as Patreon.


Getting Started

Anybody can write a guide. But, to generate any money from this approach, you'll have to develop guides for popular video games first by choosing a niche or genre, then playing through the game while recording footage, and recording voiceovers while editing your footage.


The best and most popular game guide channels cover popular titles, make brief yet effective content, inject personality and valuable information into their scripts, and upload new content regularly.


However, the more popular a game is, the stiffer the competition. To distinguish your guides, you'll have to provide more insight, which implies more investment in terms of time to set yourself up as an expert.


Furthermore, you'll need to have strong writing and editing skills - depending on the game's complexity. You'll also have to understand how to explain several overlapping concepts in a reasonable time frame, or your channel's growth will soon plateau.


The best way to understand which content to work on is to establish a particular niche - let's say you enjoy strategy games such as those created by Paradox Studios. You can then interact with other players on the forums to find common beginner issues, make a list of potential tutorial videos, and then write your general script.


In games where multi-players exist, aim for leveling guides, gold guides, raid guides, or newbie tips. For single-player guides, you'll probably be more successful with focused guides on topics such as earning a particular trophy or pulling off a 'challenge run.'



3. Game Tester

The most fundamental distinction between a quality assurance tester and a game tester is that the former deals with a product that's already met a particular quality level as desired by developers.


On the other hand, a game tester focuses primarily on troubleshooting programming errors rather than the entire gameplay experience. Often, new generations of games come with brand new video game engines - while these do offer ever-increasing levels of graphical fidelity, AI customization, and more, they also introduce several systems that may conflict during gameplay scenarios.


As a tester, your role is to execute these scenarios, test new ideas that the programming teams come up with, and report any bugs or errors that you find in the software.


Nowadays, it isn't too hard to become a tester. However, it can be mind-numbing. Playing to break games deliberately can become boring quickly, particularly if you need to continuously check the same places or stages after each revision.


If you have a knack for programming, it might be exciting, but if you're constantly looking for novelty in your video game experiences, you might find it too much of a challenge.


Unlike a quality assurance tester, you aren't playing a mostly-finished product - you're helping programmers find out where they've made mistakes.


The pay isn't too high either, and unless you can secure an internal position with a large game development company, it's not always going to be easy. Most of the available in-house testing positions are for mobile games - which may not be your end goal.


Getting Started

To land a role as an internal tester at a company, you'll need to browse job boards, research organizations for open positions and send applications while hoping for the best. When it comes to on-demand playtesting, consider services such as beta testing.



4. Become a Professional Gamer

These days, professional gamers compete worldwide and win millions at events sponsored by the likes of Intel Extreme Masters and the Major League Gaming (MLG) circuit.


MLG has arenas across the country where live streaming of professional gaming takes place. Furthermore, it has communities and scouts on the internet to discover untapped players - many of whom were dedicated streamers and community favorites. At the same time, some were relatively obscure names that catapulted to fame during open tournaments.


The best thing to do to become a professional is to choose a game that you genuinely enjoy and regularly practice in competitive formats. From there, work on building your reputation as a skilled player as well as a team player before you can start participating in eSports.



5. Become a Streamer

You can record yourself while gaming solo or with friends and demonstrate your prowess, game knowledge, or even just your fun and engaging personality. The advantage of live streaming is that it adds a personal touch to the content - allowing you to develop a more hands-on relationship with your audience.


Streaming allows you to earn through donations and viewer subscriptions. As you expand your subscriber base, renowned brands might reach out and offer sponsorship in return for brand mentions, paid recommendations, or other forms of promotion.


To succeed as a streamer, you'll need a powerful computer because you'll be running numerous programs concurrently - so consider a graphics card update or invest in capture cards to gain high-quality live footage.


Also, remember that you'll need a decent amount of network latency and upload speed to run a smooth, high-quality stream.


Twitch

Numerous gamers stream their play for profit, and Twitch is the most commonly preferred platform for players worldwide, registering over 9.3 million active streamers in 2021.


Twitch's monetization structure differs considerably from YouTube because of its live-streaming models. As a Twitch affiliate, you can earn money through:


Cheering - Twitch allows users to own 'bits' - a form of currency that will enable you to support a streamer with a penny per cheer. Not much, but it certainly adds up if you have a large number of concurrent streamers - and if they have a good reason to cheer you on.


Subscriptions - The primary bread and butter of most streamers, subscriptions allow users to donate a certain amount each month for perks. Subscriptions are a pretty great thing to focus on, and it's well worth engaging with your subscribers to keep them interested - and your revenue sky-high.


Ads - Once you've attained your status as a monetized streamer, you'll receive compensation in different ways. You'll obtain $5 for each subscriber who visits your channel, and you'll equally have the option to include a Google Adsense-like channel set-up. This will allow you to earn through the ads on your page.


Amazon Affiliate Links - Twitch enables users to maximize affiliate links from Amazon, meaning that gamers can endorse products accessible for purchase on Amazon.


You can provide direct access to the products to your viewers through an affiliate link. You earn a commission whenever a product is purchased using the link, just for referring the traffic.


This avenue offers a means of generating passive income, and players can promote products and services they like to their viewers or subscribers.


Tips to Increase Revenue through Live Streaming on Twitch

When live streaming, remember to be engaging and interactive to attract a high number of views. A smooth and pleasant voice is also essential, so pay attention to your voice and its modulations.


Remember that viewers don't want to listen to dull, monotonous gamers - no matter how amazing their gameplay.


Another aspect of live-streaming is developing content regularly. You'll want viewers informed on when to tune in. Maintaining a regular schedule will allow viewers to watch you at a specific time and day, so it's worth doing a bit of analysis to figure out when your daily schedule best coincides with that of your average audience.


Networking is equally important when it comes to live streaming. Interacting with sponsors and fellow streamers is an efficient means of advancing your reputation and income stream - and also allows both parties to benefit by running co-op streams or special charity events.



6. Get Sponsors

Once you get a following, whether it's on Twitch or YouTube, you might want to consider contacting sponsors to generate extra revenue. To secure sponsorships, you need to impress them, and you can do this by ensuring your channel portrays precisely what you described it to be.


You'll also want to look for preferred brands that might be keen on sponsoring you but also consider whether you'd be comfortable using their merchandise. Consider partnering with brands or promoting products that align with your vision and your image - this will keep your endorsements pleasant and genuine and make you more likable to viewers.


While some companies prefer strict, corporate-style endorsements where you read from a pre-agreed upon script, many are also willing to let creators run their own unique spin on the product - so try and find an open-minded partner!



7. Play Online Games via Points Club

Although you won't become rich with this approach, it's a great starting point for some immediate savings. Sites such as Swagbucks and InboxDollars offer members gaming opportunities in return for points, which they can trade in for gift cards or PayPal payments.


This approach frequently includes spending money upfront. For instance, you can buy game tokens and earn points in return.



8. Game Journalism

Given the increasing popularity of eSports, news outlets are also noticing the industry's lucrativeness. If you have a passion for gaming and a way with words, you can combine both and use your skills to cover tournaments and other kinds of events for publishing - or write reviews, think pieces, and everything in between.


Most video game journalists make between $26,000 and $36,000 annually. While the numbers do not put you anywhere close to the high-income league, it is a lucrative option worth considering as a side hustle.


As a contributing writer for existing websites, you can receive payment as a freelancer or on a per-article basis. If you plan on starting your own website, you can monetize traffic with ads.


Like most types of journalism, game journalism is highly competitive. So, be prepared to work for peanuts while you establish your portfolio or build up your repertoire.


The same goes if you plan on starting your website. It will take you a while to build an audience and begin earning substantially enough to keep the home fires burning.



9. Start a Gaming Podcast

If you have a lot to say, consider creating a weekly, daily, or monthly show associated with gaming. It could be an opinion-based discussion or a series of interviews featuring high-profile players. It could even be about offering tips for a particular game. You can monetize podcasts through sponsorships and ads - the most common format involves a quick name plug at the beginning and a detailed ad segment at the end or middle of your podcast.


You'll also need to build up a sizable audience before you notice any revenue. Your show must also be compelling enough for the audience to want to tune in. A wiser idea would be to make a few trial runs and perhaps learn from someone already established in the podcast space.


While your early podcasts may seem vague or meandering, don't be discouraged. After a few tries, you'll be more comfortable with speaking your mind, expressing ideas, and coming up with an engaging format.


You could even dedicate a channel to gaming news for a specific genre or videogame - all you need to do is keep a weekly tab on updates and get a friend or two onboard. The good news about a podcast is that the content does not need to be as deep as a guide, and you don't require a deep personality as that of a streamer.


For more information on starting your own podcast, check out: "How to Make Money with a Podcast in 2021"



10. Creative Writing for Games

If you're a creative and talented writer, you might be able to produce art or write directly for games. Although it can be challenging to break into this type of writing, it is not impossible, especially for freelance writers with considerable experience and interest in game development.


Video game writing involves developing stories, designing characters, and creating the dialogue between them while maintaining a cohesive theme across the gameplay experience.


As a video game writer, you will need considerable research skills because you need to understand the concept behind a game and the period in which the game is set. Although a few genuinely creative storytellers have successfully broken the mold to create games that aren't even genre-specific - with the players themselves serving as part of the narrative.


While the team behind the game can contribute ideas to the story, it's the writer's responsibility to tie it all together.


The primary skill you require to be a game writer is creative writing. Since only big AAA games need full-time writers, it's convenient for writers to have game design experience or training, which could help secure freelance work on a smaller team.


In recent years, many of the grandest and best-written works of fiction have reached audiences through the medium of video games - and through smaller, independent studios that aren't necessarily driven by accountants and profit margins. So, don't be afraid - feel free to let your creativity run wild! Because with the right amount of talent and perseverance, the sky's the limit here.



11. Produce a YouTube Channel

This route offers a straightforward means of earning money from gaming, but it also involves churning out valuable video content for your channel at frequent intervals. You could focus on various titles or a single game - recording skilled gameplay or highlights from your playthrough.


Increasing viewership is the primary means of generating money on YouTube. To accomplish this, you need to have a considerable number of followers and one of the commonly used tactics to entice more subscribers is by organizing giveaways.


The best part is that you do not need to spend your hard-earned money here because there are various ways to obtain freebies from other websites without spending a dime. Once you've mastered the steps necessary to monetize your channel, you need to ensure your content meets the expectations of your viewers or subscriber base.


While tutorial channels still need some polish and authority level, you can get away with as much or as little as you want for an overarching gaming channel. Try a new game each week, make humorous sketches, or air the industry's dirty laundry for viewers to see - it's all up to you!


You could use the same platform to further your research. If you seek in-depth information on monetizing your hobby, YouTube offers a wealth of information.


Some of the formats you can develop include:


Walkthroughs

You can consider this kind of content as tutorials on the different levels in a game. For this, you'll need to record yourself gaming and offer insights as you proceed. Viewers can use your videos if they require some guidance to get through particularly challenging stages.


Commentaries

In this format, viewers will see gameplays of teams - possibly even in a competitive form. You can express your reviews and thoughts concerning the game and tactics applied by the winners - letting your audience learn more about in-game strategies and mechanics.


Highlights

For online games such as League of Legends, you can take tournament snippets and integrate them in a highlights reel, portraying the pivotal scenes from a game between two expert teams.


The advantage of this format is that you can watch and assess the battle while enjoying the liberty to include the components you consider noteworthy - and all you need to do is edit the gameplay snippets and have some short commentary.


Reviews

Reviews are something you might want to consider for your YouTube channel. It involves trying out newly released games and offering your opinion and review of the same. You simply need to take notes while playing the game and share your observations with subscribers.


You might want to assess various factors such as sound, graphics, playability, and whether additional in-game purchases exist. Additionally, you can express your views about your likes and dislikes about the game together with what improvements can be made.


For more information on creating your own YouTube channel, check out: "How to Make Money on YouTube"



12. Become a Coach

You will be surprised to know that there are just as many coaches as there are prospective gamers. If you have a solid reputation as a professional gamer, you can put your gaming experience to work as a gaming coach.


Alternatively, you could apply to sites such as Gamer Sensei and earn over $25 hourly as one of the teachers. Depending on how good your skills are, you could apply to coach a team. Coaches of big teams reportedly earn tens of thousands of dollars annually and obtain full benefits.



13. Obtain Direct Payment to Play

Surprisingly, some sites will pay you to play their video games. However, you won't receive cash upfront. Instead, you might obtain payment in some form of cryptocurrency, which you can convert into prepaid cards or gift cards.


However, most of these sites expect you to play their games and review them as well.



14. Win Tournaments

Tournaments are commonplace for video games - the more popular a game, the bigger the prize pools. If your skills qualify you to join an eSports organization, it might be possible to earn a livable income through sponsorships and winnings.


If you decide to take this route, remember that not everybody has what it takes to win - the best players devote thousands of hours to practicing and honing their skills. Furthermore, you could be a world-class player but still lose and leave without any winnings. If you do win occasionally, your winnings might not always cover the cost of flights and hotels.


However, if you are determined to participate in tournaments, you can get started by finding popular games with numerous tournaments and significant interest from eSports organizations. As you improve your skills, consider networking with other expert gamers to get noticed.


At the end of the day, remember to be realistic with yourself. You might be better off pursuing a profession as a non-competitive streamer. This way, viewers will enjoy watching you even if you aren't the best.



15. Develop and Sell Game-inspired Merchandise

This is perhaps one of the most reliable ways of making money. It involves starting a business by designing, producing, and selling game-inspired merchandise. With the right product and outstanding marketing skills, this approach offers abundant opportunities to generate a lucrative income.


Before you get started, do some research and determine the kind of products you want to sell. You could create everything from character art on t-shirts to customized art commissions on other gamers' in-game personas - a popular income source for artists on DeviantArt.


For more information on how to develop and sell game-inspired merchandise, check out: "How to start your own clothing line using Print-on-Demand merchandise"



16. Gaming Blog

Blogs on gaming are becoming increasingly popular and offer a wealth of opportunities as long as you have the expertise. You could harness your knowledge of the game and use your blog to help other gamers master their techniques and gain from your experience.


Blogs such as FExtralife have developed something of a cult following over the years, thanks to their rock-solid reputation for offering educated opinions and in-depth guides.


You can focus your blog on one game and discuss how to master it with tips and strategies. You could also provide news updates on this industry or offer product reviews.


However, it isn't always that easy. You'll also need to invest considerable time and money in producing good write-ups and securing an excellent hosting service.



Final Thoughts

While it is possible to generate money from gaming, it will involve a lot of hard work and a considerable investment of your time. But once you have created a name for yourself and become established in the industry, you can look forward to a lucrative and fun-filled future.


If you don't know where to start, the strategies mentioned above are a great starting point to turn your favorite pastime into a lucrative income source.




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