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Your Guide to Making Money Playing Games

Updated on May 24, 2017
KristianHowe profile image

Kristian has been playing games all of his life and insists he will never grow out of it! His dream is to one day play with a pro gamer.

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Introduction

People love video games.

It is easy to imagine that many people would snap up the opportunity to earn a living whilst doing something that they enjoy and love.

Many people earn a significant sum playing games, but just how is it possible?

This article explores content creation and competitive gaming as two main ways to earn a living from playing the computer games that you love.

Which game content do you watch the most?

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Professional Competitive Gaming

How do I earn money / income from playing games competitively?

In the modern age, eSports is becoming more and more common place in the western world. ESports, generally, is competitive gaming whereby players battle each other to win competitions.

For hobby gamers that want to test their skills, there are many amateur competitions every week that they enter to test their skills against players. Many of these amateur competitions do have prize funds, so it is possible to generate some form of income through these types of competitions. This being said it is unlikely that you will earn anything significant from this, but it can be great for players that want to compete for something worthwhile.

For the exceptionally talented players, there are tournaments with large prize funds which can represent an opportunity to become a full time gamer (professional). In this case, I define the term professional as being able to generate a living wage entirely from this pursuit. On top of this there are many eSports organisations that are set up to support professional players, organise teams and pay a wage. To qualify and compete at this level, you need to be among the very best in the world.

Okay, so it is possible to be a professional competitive gamer, but how good do I need to be?

For this I will use League of Legends as an example, as it is the one I have the most experience with.

Most competitive games will have a ranked system that will allow players to play seriously and gauge how good they really are. In most cases there will be a tier system which players will climb up as they win games and fall down as they lose them. For League of Legends the skill rating system is based around the ELO system that was originally used in chess to match skill levels of players. For more information on this see the link below.

If you want to be taken seriously as a prospective professional gamer, climbing this ladder is the best way to get noticed.

This will allow you to prove that you are better than the players that are in the ranked ladder below you. In pretty much all cases you will need to be in the very top tier to have any chance of going pro.

Interestingly in Starcraft 2, many pro players were not in fact in the top tier, due to the way the league was set up in that players would not get demoted due to inactivity. This meant that if you got into the top tier you could sit there and never play another game, making these spots extremely hard (and not entirely skill dependant) to achieve.

See the table below for an idea of what kind of percentage of players you will need to be in to consider a professional competitive career, in the League of Legends example where you would have to qualify as a Challenger tier player to have the best possible chance.

Tier
% of Players
Challenger
0.02%
Master
0.04%
Diamond
1.84%
Platinum
7.05%
Gold
18.71%
Silver
38.34%
Bronze
34.00%
 
 

In summary, you need to be among the best players in the world, pushing into the top 0.02% of all players. If you are able to get into these high levels of play, then you will be taken more seriously by prospective teams.

From here you can try out for teams or try and get noticed in other ways, such as through competitions (depending on the game).

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How much work is it, to be a pro competitive gamer?

Whilst it sounds like a dream job, to be a professional gamer, the reality is that it is a lot of hard work to maintain a world class level of performance in any sport or activity. It is not uncommon for pro players to practise 8-14 hours per day all year round.

Any break away can severely hurt your performances so it is important to maintain a regular routine and tight self discipline.

This kind of schedule is not for everyone!

So, how much money can I earn as a professional competitive gamer?

This ranges significantly between games and levels of professional players.

  • Starcraft 2 prize money can range up to $300,000 a year for the best in the world,
  • CS:GO players can earn over $200,000 a year just in salary,
  • Whilst the best in the world at League of Legends is rumoured to be paid over $2.5 million.

Much of this doesn't take into consideration any sponsorship deals or streaming revenue that a player can make on the side, which can also be significant sums.

I have included a video below as an example of a professional gaming tournament final based in Europe.

Online Content Creator

Okay, so maybe you have read what it takes to be a competitive gamer and have thought "that's not for me". The good news is that there are other ways to earn a living playing video games. Many people earn a good living creating content for websites such as Youtube or Twitch.tv.

Creating content generates money in very similar ways for both media forms. Youtube and Twitch are both focused around attracting viewers and traffic.

Twitch.tv is slightly different as it is a live stream where-as Youtube are videos (usually, although Youtube has been creeping into the live stream market recently).

For both mediums, you are essentially drawing the people around the world to watch you play the game.

Now, an important caveat, although you don't need to be as skilled at playing the game to pursue this career, it is not necessarily a lot easier.

In order to pull people to your content you need to have something to different and unique to the rest of the crowd. Examples are:

  • Exceptionally talented,
  • Large following,
  • Unique idea or concept,
  • Interesting or entertaining personality.

Many professional competitive players are retiring into a content creation role. Players such as Dyrus and Imaqtpie attract large followings because of their skill level and their prominence in the competitive scene makes them identifiable names.

It is possible to earn a living in this field without a prior large following. Many Youtubers and streamers simply offer entertainment or educational content which attracts a large audience and allows them to do it for a living.

I have included some links below to show a range of content creators that are very successful for different reasons.

Source

Some of the most successful content creators are rumoured to be earning over $1 million per year+ through subscriptions and traffic, not to mention sponsorship deals that many will have.

If you really feel that this is something that you would like to get into, your first step is to think of a unique selling point. This should be something that you can offer that others haven't done yet or can't offer themselves.

As being a content creator is seen as such a desirable job, the market is quite saturated with people producing content, but that does not mean that you cannot break into this market.

Closing Notes

Playing video games is an extremely popular pass time or hobby for many people. In the modern age watching others play video games is rapidly gaining popularity.

The prospect of earning a living wage from something you are passionate about is a dream for many people around the world.

This makes it extremely competitive to get into, but not impossible. New content creators and players are entering the professional scene all the time.

If you have something to offer and enough determination, then there is no reason why you can't earn a living from video games, but it won't be an easy ride!


Trying to get better at gaming? Consider reading the following article for some simple steps on how to improve:

© 2017 Kristian Howe

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