How to Make Money Gaming

How to make money gaming, is a question that I receive from many young aspiring entrepreneurs. Most of them are seeking to turn their hobby into a profession. Which is very understandable cause then you would never ever have to “work” again.

In this comprehensive guide I’ll explain you exactly how to make money gaming. We’ll cover different strategies, platforms and possible income streams. I’ll also provide you with a bunch of tips on how to make the most out of every strategy.

When you want to make money gaming there are a few different strategies you can employ. You can for example become a live streamer, a famous Youtuber, a well-known game critic or a professional gamer. In this guide on how to make money gaming we will cover all of these strategies. I’ll explain how to get started on each strategy, how to monetize it and how to succeed at it.

Live streaming

The first and perhaps most well-known way of how to make money gaming is: live streaming. The popularity of live streaming exploded several years ago when Twitch.tv started streaming the popular game League of Legends. Game streaming, and especially watching someone stream became insanely popular with almost 100 million people watching the 2018 League of Legends world championship final.

However, as the demand for live streamers increased, so did the supply. As of today (march 2020) Twitch has almost 4 million active streamers. Its competitor Mixer is well on the way to 100.000 active streamers. Competition is fierce and only those who become part of the top will be able to earn a significant amount of money off it.

Starting a live stream

twitch logo

Starting a live stream is considerably easy. All you need is an account on a streaming service like Twitch or Mixer, broadcasting software and a pretty smile. On which platform you want to stream your games is entirely up to you. The two most well-known streaming services are Twitch and Mixer. Twitch is currently the market leader and has the largest viewership. But you’ll also have a lot of competition as it has the most streamers. Mixer is rather new and upcoming which makes it easier to rise in the ranks.

mixer logo

Do you feel you have the skills and uniqueness to easily surpass your competition? Will you be present consistently from the beginning on? Are you in the top ten percent of a game? Then my advice would be  to go for Twitch as a larger audience allows you to potentially earn more money. Are you not entirely sure whether you’ll be consistent and unique? Are you an average gamer and do you not plan to give live streaming everything you got? Then you might try and go with Mixer as the competition there isn’t as fierce.

All you have to do to start streaming is to create an account on a streaming service. If you game on your PC you’ll need a broadcasting software to be able to broadcast your streams to your streaming channel. There are different broadcasting software on the market. Twitch has their own Twitch Studio but also recommends popular third party tools like OBS and XSplit.

If you play on a Playstation 4 you can use its built in broadcasting feature to broadcast your stream to Twitch. Broadcasting to Mixer from your Playstation 4 is a little more difficult though. As Mixer is owned by Microsoft, which also happens to be the manufacturer of Xbox, you can expect things there to not go flawlessly. If you want to stream from your PS4 to Mixer you’ll have to use your PC to capture what is happening on your PS4 and then broadcast that to Mixer using OBS for example. If you play on an Xbox you can broadcast your stream to both Twitch and Mixer by using its built in broadcasting functionality.

As soon as you are able to broadcast your games to Twitch or Mixer the only thing that is left is putting up your best smile.

How to make money streaming games

When you’re streaming your games to Twitch or Mixer you can start making money. In general, there are a few ways how to make money gaming with live streaming.

Subscriptions

On both Twitch and Mixer, people who watch streams can upgrade their regular account. They do this by becoming a subscriber (Twitch) or become a pro member (Mixer). By doing so they get benefits like ad-free streaming and personalized emotes. Both platforms offer partnerships for streamers with a large audience. In return they offer the streamers more ways to engage with their audience and a pay cut from people who subscribe. Becoming a partner isn’t easy though. You’ll need to meet a set of guidelines regarding the size of your audience, how often you stream and how long you stream.

mixer subscribe

The Mixer subscribe functionality for the user DUKEOFFLUKES

Display advertising

A second source of revenue for streamers is advertising. You basically run commercial ads on your streaming channel and get paid money for people viewing these ads. Both platforms have a somewhat different approach to advertising though. Twitch provides partners with a large audience the ability to determine for themselves if they want to run ads, when and how often. The streamer receives a fixed amount of money for every 1.000 viewers. Mixer runs ads on its platform themselves and up until now it’s still unclear whether partners receive a share of the ad revenue or not.

twitch display advertising

Twitch Display Advertising during the League of Legends LPL Spring 2020

Donations

A well applied source of revenue for people who stream is donations. Loyal fans are known to donate money as a way to support their favorite streamers. Donations are an important source of income for streamers as for many it’s a fulltime endeavor. A lot of gamers tie donating to some sort of goal. Many PC gamers for example upgrade their hardware from the donations they receive.

Twitch has an internal currency that can be used for donations. This currency is known as Twitch bits. Streamers can buy Twitch bits and donate them to streamers that are able to cash them. Mixer has no internal currency but has integrations with third party applications like PayPal, StreamJar and StreamLabs.

twitch donations

The top 10 donations on a Twitch streamers channel

Sponsorships

A last, and perhaps most sizable source of revenue for gamers is through sponsorships. Organizations who are linked to gaming are always looking for streamers with a large audience who are willing to endorse their products. Hardware brands like Steelseries, Razer, Corsair, HyperX and BenQ are known to spend quite some money on sponsorships. And they are doing good business with it. Why would they spend 200K on a TV commercial where you reach nothing but retired people and housewives who’ve never heard of their brand when they can spend half of it on Twitch sponsorships and reach nearly 100% of their target group.

How to succeed in live streaming

As I’ve repeatedly mentioned, becoming a successful live streamer is not easy. There is a lot of competition as millions of other people have the desire to make money with their hobby. So.. how do you succeed in live streaming?

The most difficult thing in live streaming is that you’ll be in a bit of a status quo position when you’re just starting out. You need to be visible and present frequently to build an audience. On top of that, the partner programs on Twitch and Mixer also require you to stream actively in order to be considered for them in the first place.

On the other hand, you need to pay the bills so you can’t just go cold turkey on your day job. If you happen to be a student or you live with your parents you in a kind of a sweet spot. A spot where you can become a visible and consistent streamer without worrying about paying your mortgage and feeding your kids.

If you’re not though, you’ll need to be creative. You can stream for solid hours at night for example. No matter what your situation is, you’ll need to find a way to be present consistently.

How much money you can actually make gaming also depends greatly on which game you play. I hate to say it, but unfortunately not every game is popular enough for you to earn a significant amount of money from. League of Legends for example can have up to 400.000 viewers on peak times. But there are plenty of games that never attract more than a few thousand viewers at a time. Your audience is limited to how popular the game you’re playing is.

Probably, the most effective strategy in becoming a big streamer is by being an early mover into a game that becomes immensely popular. Every once in a while a new game is released that gains a lot of popularity over a short period of time. Streamers who move to these games in an early phase reap a lot of benefits. They gain a lot of popularity fast as they are the first faces that people see. There are not yet any established well-known faces. Others who come late just fight for the scraps. Some good examples of these games are Fortnite, PUBG and Escape from Tarkov.

Do beware though that this strategy has its downsides as well. As you switch games it’s likely that you lose a part of your current audience. After all, they are following you because they want to see you play that one game they love. The second risk is that the game you end up playing never really becomes popular. Evidently not every new game draws the attention of thousands of people. Very little new games become the new League of Legends or the new Fortnite. So this strategy is a bit of a Russian roulette though. If you already have a big audience I’d recommend you to not try this strategy. If you are just starting out and you see a promising new game you might want to give it a shot.

If you want to attract and grow an audience you’ll need to be unique. You’ll need to stand out from the crowd. In my opinion there are good and bad ways to be unique. Bad ways that I have seen streamers implement are excessive swearing, racism and nudity. This might draw you a lot of short term attention but will get you banned from streaming platforms eventually.

A good way to be unique is being unique in your physical appearance or personality. The famous Fortnite streamer Ninja for example is not only famous for his Fortnite skills but also his bright colored hair. Other streamers are famous for the way they engage with their audience or for their playing style.

Create YouTube content

Another way how to make money gaming is by using YouTube. Many gamers use YouTube as a channel to share their content. There are a few different ways to approach YouTube as a channel.

Post videos of yourself gaming

Some approach YouTube as a channel where they can posts videos about themselves while gaming. A bit like live streaming but then without the “live” part. This strategy is not used much though. Evidently, why would someone watch a recording of someone gaming on YouTube when you can watch someone gaming live on Twitch.

Other people combine YouTube gaming with vlogging and not only film the games they play but approach gaming as a part of their life and a part of their vlogs.

Post gaming compilations, highlights and walkthroughs

A strategy that is more often utilized is people using YouTube to post compilations, highlights and walkthroughs. Compilations and highlights are quite a popular type of gaming video on YouTube. Viewers are given the opportunity to watch the highlights of a game without having to spend hours watching the rather dull moments in between.

The famous Rocket League gamer JHZER for example is known from posting a weekly compilation of the best goals, bloopers and highlights of his Rocket League games. His videos, often branded under “Rocket League Moiments” and “Freestyle Friday” often get over 300.000 viewers. Videos like these are appealing to people as he most likely spends about a lot of hours a week shooting footage of which only the ten minutes that end up in his videos are the most sensational.

Walkthroughs and tutorial videos can also be a great way to earn money gaming. Especially strategy based games and role playing games are great for walkthroughs and tutorials. Take the famous YouTube vlogger theRadBrad for example. He creates walkthrough videos for nearly any game you can think of and posts them on YouTube. As of this moment (early 2020) his videos have little over 4.5 billion total views. His most popular video about the final mission in GTA 5 has close to 20 million views.

horizon zero dawn walkthrough

The YouTube Horizon Zero Dawn Walkthrough by theRadBrad

How to make money gaming on YouTube

There are different ways to make money gaming on YouTube.

Advertising

The most used monetization strategy people use on YouTube is advertising. Once your YouTube channel hits 1.000 subscribers you become eligible to join the YouTube Partner Program. When you’re in this program you can start running ads on your video’s. You earn a little money for every person who watches the ads.

Sponsorships

Next to advertising there are some other monetization strategies. As with live streaming and professional gaming sponsorships are optionable as well. Once your YouTube popularity increases, there are plenty of organizations that are willing to pay you for recommending their brands and products. Game developers might pay you for creating content about their games. Hardware producers might pay you for recommending their hardware. There are even gaming Youtubers who get sponsored by food brands like Detox teas and noodles. The sponsorship opportunities are limitless.

Affiliate sales

A third monetization strategy that is closely related to sponsorships is affiliate sales. Affiliate sales comes down to recommending products and services. In sponsorships you often get paid a fixed amount up front. Affiliate sales is based on performance. You share an affiliate link or personalized discount code with your audience. For everyone who buys a product based on your recommendation you receive a commission. Famous Youtube gamers often recommend their viewer to buy hardware, games or merchandise from their affiliate partners.

Personal merchandise

fnatic merchandise t shirt

Fnatic merchandise t-shirt

When you really get a strong brand going, setting up a personal merchandise line can be a lucrative monetization strategy. Personal merchandise is one of the less utilized strategies as not a lot of gamers have a brand presence that is strong enough. Most of the merchandise you’ll see out there is t-shirts, hoodies, caps and other pieces of clothing. But there are also YouTube celebrities with unorthodox pieces of merchandise like glasses, mugs, stuffed animals and more. Merchandise can be a very lucrative income stream. However, to successfully implement it you’ll need a very popular brand. Next to that you’ll have to invest quite some time getting the merchandise going. You go from making Youtube videos to becoming a supplier of merchandise. This includes setting up a sales channel, handling customer complaints, handling returns and dealing with shipping. You can evidently outsource this but this will cost you a share of your profit. Most merchandise lines by famous gamers are ran by branding agencies behind the gamers. Not by the actual gamers themselves.

How to succeed on YouTube

As in many other channels, the competition on YouTube is rather fierce. Every day, thousands of hours of content is added to YouTube. If you want to successfully grow your audience on YouTube, the things that make you successful are more or less the same as for live streaming.

Be unique, create unique and outstanding content and stand out from the crowd. And at last. Pick your “niche” rather carefully. You can only create a walkthrough of a game once. But you can keep on creating nearly infinite videos with highlights.

Testing and reviewing games

Testing and reviewing games can be a very fun way of how to make money gaming. The idea is basically that you test and review new games and then write, vlog or stream about your findings.

Game reviewing is fun because you get to play many different games. Contrary to live streaming or professional gaming where you need to stick to one game to become succesful. Next to that, you often get to test new games before they even land in the stores. Game developers often ask well-known reviewers to review their games before they land in the stores.

As a game reviewer, the main thing you need is one or multiple platforms to reach your audience. There are quite some platforms to choose from. Most people use YouTube, others use a live streaming service like Twitch and some have an own blog or website. A combination of multiple platforms is not uncommon as well. You can combine a blog with YouTube or with live streaming for example. You can also combine writing and streaming or writing and creating videos.

Testing and reviewing games are two entirely different things though. There are people who test games from a very technical perspective and those who review them from a functional perspective. People who test games are paid by game developers to test early versions of a game for glitches, bugs and balance. When you decide to get into this kind of testing it’s wise to know what you’re getting into. Technical testing can be quite a demanding job that is far different from “casual gaming”. You’ll have to be thorough and very methodological. You’ll have to look at a game from different perspectives and take a lot of notes while testing.

The second perspective is reviewing games. Someone who reviews games plays a game and then reviews it from his personal experience. They review the gameplay, the experience, the story, the graphics and so on.

How to make money testing and reviewing games

There are a few ways to make money testing and reviewing games. If you test from a technical perspective you are often paid by the game developers. After all, you are simply a part of the game production process. Every software needs to be tested. Games are no exception. If you want to become a game tester you’ll have to reach out to developers. See if any developers have openings and if not, reach out to them and ask for the opportunities.

If you review games there are different monetization strategies. Some people who review games are paid by the game developers to do so. But to make that happen you’ll need to have quite a large audience. Evidently, game developers will not pay money to every single person who thinks it will be fun to start reviewing games.

Based on the platform you use to review your games you have some more possible monetization strategies. If you use YouTube as your platform then you’ll be able to monetize your content in different ways as I’ve explained in the previous part. You’ll be able to make money through display advertising, affiliate sales en perhaps even sponsoring.

If you use a live stream platform then you’ll have different monetization strategies that we have also covered before. You can earn money through subscriptions, display advertising, donations and sponsorships.

At last you can use a website or blog as your platform to review games. If you have a blog or website you can monetize it by using display advertising as well as affiliate sales or personal merchandise. We’ve already covered all of those in this article as well.

How to succeed in reviewing games

Reviewing games properly is something that many people slightly underestimate. Writing a good review takes a lot of practice.

If you want to succeed in reviewing games there are some pro tips you can implement. As with live streaming and creating YouTube content the main takeaway is: don’t be a dime in a dozen. Be unique, build a strong brand and treat your audience well.

A second tip is that you’ll need to be honest, but also critical and always positive. Your audience won’t appreciate it if every game you review is “totally amazing”. They appreciate honesty. Not every game is a masterpiece and thus you should not pretend it is.

But… do not confuse honesty and being critical for being negative. The developers of a game have put a lot of hard work into a game and if it’s not your piece of cake, be honest but polite about it. Most development teams spend years developing a game. Don’t insult or overly negatively criticize games nor their developers. If you’re critical, also be positive and elaborate what would make a game better.

The developers, nor you, nor your reputation will benefit if you negatively slander a game without any positive feedback nor elaboration. If you want to become an even more successful reviewer of games you’ll need an impeccable reputation. Having an impeccable reputation can for example lead to developers sending you new games to test and allowing you to test new games that are not for sale yet.

Become a professional gamer

If you are talented in a specific game you might have a shot at becoming a professional gamer. The e-sports sector hosts a lot of tournaments where you can make good prize money as a gamer. Millions of dollars being distributed among winners are no exception. Especially tournaments in popular games like League of Legends, Fortnite, Call of Duty and Dota are lucrative.

Becoming a professional gamer isn’t easy though. Professional gamers are no longer above average talented teenagers who go to school during the day and spend the rest of their day in their mum’s basements. The e-sports sector has matured a lot over the last decade. The professional gamer of today is a fulltime pro who has dedicated his career to gaming. Professional gamers tend to train from 8 up to 16 hours per day and even have coaches. Being a professional gamer nowadays is a serious and full time endeavor that is no different from being a professional athlete. So don’t underestimate becoming a professional gamer.

To become a professional game you need three things.

  1. An abundance of time to practice.
  2. Good gear.

Most of the professional gamers spend thousands of hours of practice into a game before they turn pro. Because competition is hard they specialize in one specific game or series.

How to make money as a professional gamer

As a professional gamer you’ll have the potential to make a lot of money. Professional gamers are rather easily able to leverage their popularity into making money via various other income streams. Income streams like live streaming.

A second substantial income stream for professional gamers is sponsorships. As I’ve explained in the part about live streaming, you don’t need to be pro to attain a sponsorship. But it definitely helps as reaching pro gives you publicity and often leads to a large audience. Professional gamers are often offered substantial sums of money to promote brands related to gaming. Some are even offered over ten thousand dollars to wear a specific headset, use a specific mouse or to wear sponsored merchandise.

A third and last source of income for professional gamers is prize money. For the absolute best pro’s, this is also the largest source of income. Gaming tournaments are hosted nearly everywhere and prize money ranges from 5 dollars to several millions of dollars. Do beware though that competing in tournaments can also cost you a lot of money and winning is never guaranteed. Many pro’s travel around the world from tournament to tournament. If you travel around the world from one tournament to the other the money has to come from somewhere.

https://www.esportsearnings.com/tournaments

An overview of the 10 most lucrative game tournaments acoording to esportsearnings.com

How to succeed as a professional gamer

There are some ways that make it easier for you to become a professional gamer. A first, and most obvious is that you’ll need to train regularly. Professional gamers tend to train from 8 to 16 hours each day.

What makes a huge difference as well is having proper gaming equipment. Gaming with cutting edge hardware, a comfortable chair and last but not least: fast internet. Just as proper hardware makes a difference for any sportsman, so it does for someone who does e-sports. Don’t believe people who tell you hardware doesn’t matter. That gaming is 100% about skill. If you lack proper equipment you will be one step behind your competition.

Another way to increase your chances of becoming a professional gamer is picking up an entirely new game and specializing in it. If you start playing League of Legends or Call of Duty for example, you’ll find yourself in a tough playing field. You’ll be competing with people who have years of experience. People who started out as a semi pro with Call of Duty 2 and have competed at a professional level for every Call of Duty that followed. You can level the playing field and increase your chances by picking up a relatively new type of game. That’s what many people for example did with Fortnite. The downside of this though is that it is a bit of a gamble. You’ll never know how popular this new game might become and how many big tournaments it will host. It’s the same as I’ve explained you with live streaming. It’s Russian roulette, but rather effective if you manage to pull it off.

When it comes to picking a game I would advise you to take a look at your skills and which game would suit you. Strategy based games like Hearthstone require a totally different skillset than shooters. If your reflexes aren’t great but you have a decent set of brains, perhaps you should consider Hearthstone over Call of Duty.

Once you’re into a game, the trick is to stay with it. Preferably for years and many versions to come. Most of the professional gamers stay with one type of game for years. Once they become pro in Call of Duty they will remain playing it throughout newer versions. You don’t see many professional gamers who switch from MOBA types to shooters or reversed. The competition is just too tough to start all over in a new type of game.

To summarize, if you want to succeed as a professional gamer, do the following:

  • Train hard and often
  • Invest in decent hardware
  • Pick a game and stay with it for a long time

Last notes on how to make money gaming

Live streaming, creating content for YouTube, testing & reviewing and becoming a professional gamer are the most utilized ways how to make money gaming. Evidently there are some ulterior activities that are, in my opinion, related to gaming but not really gaming itself. Activities like creating fan art or developing games.

Making money while gaming is the ultimate dream for many teenagers. Many try but unfortunately only little succeed. I hope this guide has given you enough tips on how to make money gaming. Whatever activity you do, the trick is to always find a way to be unique and build a strong personal brand.

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