This post shows you exactly how to get paid to play computer, smartphone and video games.
Whether you’re a hard-core gamer looking to break into competitive e-sports or someone who just wants to make a few bucks playing fun games at home in your spare time, there’s something for you on this list.
And yes, all of these ideas actually work — although some of them are a lot easier to take advantage of than others.
We’ve organized the different options into categories so you can jump directly to the type of opportunity you’re looking for:
- Competitive gaming: earn cash from your hobby.
- Careers in the gaming industry: turn your love of video games into a job.
- Apps and websites: make a few extra bucks in your spare time.
Let’s dive in!
Earning Money as a Competitive Gamer
This section is not for those who just like to kill time playing Candy Crush or showing off their vocabulary on Words With Friends.
Earning money as a competitive gamer is the equivalent of being a professional athlete. Professional gamers can earn substantial prize money, but people will also pay to watch you play.
In fact, check out what Deloitte (one of the big four accounting firms) had to say about the growth of e-sports in their 2020 Media & Entertainment Industry Outlook:
Another category expected to continue its rapid growth is esports. […] By 2020, the global esports market is expected to generate $1.5 billion in annual revenues, primarily from sponsorships and advertising to an estimated global audience of 600 million fans.
There are many ways to earn as a competitive gamer, from competing in tournaments to brand sponsorships to streaming. Here are a few of the best options.
#1. Become a Streamer
If you want to become a paid game player, Twitch — which is a video streaming service owned by Amazon and aimed at gamers — is one of the most realistic options.
There are a few ways you can make money live streaming yourself playing games on Twitch. One way is by adding a donation button to your channel, similar to Patreon donations for podcasters.
Viewers can tip players with an online currency called Bits, which are earned by watching ads (they can also be purchased). If viewers want to tip you, they type “cheerxx” into the chat window, replacing “xx” with the number of Bits they wish to tip. 100 bits is equivalent to $1.40.
Twitch viewers can subscribe to your channel just like YouTube viewers can subscribe to content creator channels. Once you have at least 500 subscribers, you can apply to become a Twitch Partner. If approved as a Partner, you’ll earn about $2.50 per month for each new subscriber. Again, like YouTube, you can also earn ad revenue on your channel.
As you can imagine, making money on Twitch isn’t only about your skills as a gamer but also how engaging and entertaining the audience finds you.
Many gamers also stream on YouTube and/or run their own blog, where they make money from advertising.
Learn more about how to make money as a blogger.
#2. Compete in Tournaments
Becoming a competitive gamer and competing at live events is for elite gamers. These people often have coaches, attend camps, and sometimes “train” for up to 16 hours a day.
And it can pay off. Prizes at big events — watched by thousands in an arena and millions more online — can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars (or more).
The best-known gamers are sometimes signed to professional teams and earn extra money through sponsorships with companies.
Competitive gamers at this level typically concentrate on a single game (League of Legends and Overwatch are two of the biggest). They may start out streaming on Twitch or YouTube, working to build an audience and a reputation within the industry in hopes of being invited to tournaments, joining a well-known team, and attracting potential sponsors.
If you’re interested, don’t limit your thinking to just videos games. There’s a vibrant scene for competitive card games like Pokémon and Magic: The Gathering, with prize payouts worth tens of thousands of dollars.
#3. XY Gaming
XY Gaming lets you compete against other players who have been matched with your skill level.
There are no web-based games; you play games you already own on your gaming consoles, such as Xbox, Playstation or computer. You connect those consoles to XY Gaming and challenge fellow players.
Different games have different player bases and payout levels, but you can earn real cash or other rewards when you play and win tournaments for the most popular titles, like League of Legends and Starcraft.
There are free tournaments, 50/50 tournaments (where the players who finish in the top 50% are rewarded), and Double Up tournaments that require an entry fee (with winners earning double the entry fee).
Careers in the Gaming Industry
Sure you can get paid to play video games if you have elite skills, but the income isn’t exactly steady — and most people aren’t that talented.
Fortunately, “real” jobs in the video game field are out there. They don’t all involve strictly playing video games, but many of them are full-time and can be done from home.
#4. Design Assets for Games
If you’re a coder, an artist or can compose music, you can create and sell video game assets including backgrounds, character models, music and sound effects.
Sometimes, you can also create in-game assets for existing games which can be exchanged for real-life cash.
One example is Linden Labs’ virtual world Second Life, which has its own (massive) internal economy. Users can create in-game content, like clothes or gadgets for their avatars, and then sell those in-game assets for Linden Dollars, which are the game’s virtual currency. There’s a set (floating) exchange rate for Linden Dollars to USD, and many venues for exchanging back and forth between the two.
Second Life players can also earn Linden Dollars by taking on virtual jobs within the world. One of the most popular is buying and selling virtual real estate.
#5. Build a Media Brand
As we’ve seen, professional gamers are a thing and they have fans just like professional athletes, musicians, and actors. And as we discussed, it’s not all about your skill as a gamer. You can build a brand around a blog that reviews games and gaming consoles, reports on gaming tournaments, and reveals game secrets.
Of course, gaming is a crowded field when it comes to blogging and streaming. You can make money online doing it, but you’re going to find yourself competing with some well-established heavy hitters in the industry.
Instead, pick a niche — a popular game, a particular console, or a certain brand you review. You’ll appeal to a smaller audience but you’ll have less competition, and that will enable you to stand out more quickly.
Building a media brand can take time, but some of your content has the potential to become a source of passive income. Putting in a lot of time and work upfront can pay off on the back end.
If you’d like to learn more about how to start a money-making blog, sign up for our free step-by-step course. It covers everything from the basics (like how to pick a good domain name) to more advanced topics (like how to actually generate revenue).
Plus, you get the full slate of materials upfront, so you can go through the modules at your own pace — whether that’s bit-by-bit in your spare time, or over the course of a single weekend.
#6. Find A Video Game Job
Like any industry, video games have spawned dozens of types of jobs. Gamer is just one job; there are designers, coders, artists, event planners, marketing people, game testers and customer support reps.
If you’re looking to get into gaming, networking is important (as it is for all careers). Become active in online gaming communities, contribute to blogs and forums, and attend gamer-related meetups, conferences, conventions and live gaming events.
If you have no experience, start a blog, a Twitch stream, or a YouTube channel so that you have somewhere to send the people you meet. The gaming industry is huge, but like with any industry, it’s small at the same time.
If you attend events, you’ll see the same people often, so it’s important to insert yourself into the industry rather than waiting to be invited in. Just like the prom, if you want to go, ask rather than waiting to be asked.
FlexJobs is also a great resource for finding work-from-home video game jobs. We recently did a test search and found over 300 listings, including positions like game tester, community manager and quality assurance specialist.
As you can imagine, since gaming industry jobs are so desirable, there are a lot of scams posing as legit opportunities. That’s especially true when it comes to remote jobs, as it’s a lot easier to pull off a scam when your only interaction with the victim is online.
FlexJobs screens its postings to make sure that the jobs (most of which offer remote positions) are legitimate, so you don’t have to worry about falling prey to a scam artist.
More info: Read our in-depth FlexJobs review to learn about the site.
Apps and Websites
But answering survey questions and clipping digital coupons aren’t exactly fun activities. What if there was a more entertaining way to pass the time while making a little bit of extra cash?
It turns out there are more than a few apps that pay you to play games. Here are some of the best.
Mistplay is an app available for Android devices, with an iOS version in development. You’ll earn points for playing (and sometimes for testing) new games. The longer you play a game, and the more games you play, the more points you’ll earn. You can cash in your points for a variety of gift cards.
Swagbucks offers a handful of free games, but most of them only pay pennies. In the example screenshot below, the available games pay “Up to 10 SBs,” which is equivalent to 10 cents.
The better way to make money playing games on the site is by logging into your account and navigating to the “Discover” section, where you’ll find an assortment of promotional offers.
There, you can usually find a handful of free desktop and mobile games that offer achievement bonuses.
For example, in the screenshot below you can see that the game Raid: Shadow Legends will pay you 3,000 SBs ($30 in value) for reaching certain in-game milestones.
What’s the catch?
Game developers know that dedicated players spend the most money on in-game purchases. They’re hoping that if you play the game long enough, you’ll become invested and choose to buy items, upgrades, character skins and so on.
Hitting the designated in-game goal within the allotted timeframe is usually extremely difficult (if not impossible), so most people who download these games never unlock the bonus. Whatever money they spend in-game is profit for the developer.
Still, this can be a legit way to make money playing games if you’re up to the challenge. Just make sure you go in with realistic expectations about the difficulty and time required.
#9. Swagbucks Live
Swagbucks Live — previously called Swag IQ — is a trivia game show run by Swagbucks. Each weekday, there’s a live trivia game (open the app to find out what time that day’s contest starts).
During the game, a host asks 10 questions and players choose from a selection of multiple choice answers. You have 10 seconds to answer, and are playing live against other players.
If you answer all 10 questions correctly, you win the day’s cash prize. When more than one player answers all 10 questions correctly, the prize is split amongst them.
If you miss a question or don’t answer within the 10 second time limit, you’re disqualified — but you’ll still earn SBs for each correct answer. You can use those SBs to buy a second chance at the grand prize, or you can add them to your balance and redeem them for cash or gift cards.
More info: You can learn more about how Swagbucks works in our in-depth review of the site, which goes into detail about the Games section, Swagbucks Live, and other ways to make money on the platform.
Available for iOS and Android phones, Lucktastic allows you to win up to $10,000 playing digital scratch-off tickets (like the kind you get at the grocery store — just on your phone).
How it works is that each day a new set of digital scratch-off tickets is there for you to play. You log in, view the day’s prizes, and play for a chance to win tokens or cash.
The game is 100% free to play, and there are no in-app purchases. The catch is that before you play, you usually have to watch a short commercial or view a banner ad.
When your account reaches $2, you can cash out via gift card. At $10, you can choose to get a paper check mailed to you.
So far, Lucktastic claims they’ve paid out over $3 million in prizes and rewards.
Our insight: Reviews on the app (3.8 on Android and 3.9 on iPhone) are just OK. And while I don’t question that they’ve paid out over $3 million in rewards, they also claim to have paid out over 1 million winners. Looking then at the math, that means it’s quite rare for someone to earn more than $2 to $3 total. So while people actually do win big, know that big paydays are far from the norm.
InboxDollars features about 30 web-based arcade games that pay out a few cents per play. You’ll find a few familiar titles like solitaire, as well as simple puzzle and action games like Monkey Bubble Shooter (which is a color-stacking game).
You can also join WorldWinner through the site. WorldWinner runs cash tournaments for games like spades, Wheel of Fortune and Plinko.
However, the WorldWinner promotion on InboxDollars is cash-back, not a true money-making opportunity; you’ll earn up to 2% back on every $1 spent in cash tournament entry fees. You can learn more about how this works in our InboxDollars review.
Like many of the other gaming sites on this list, there are several ways to earn real money with InboxDollars, including reading emails, answering surveys and watching videos. (And you can watch ads for money, too.)
#12. Long Game Savings
Long Game Savings is a personal finance game in which players are rewarded for developing savings habits.
To participate, you have to open a savings account with LGS. The account is free, FDIC insured, and managed by a variety of partner banks.
Once your account is set up, you’ll decide on a savings plan that dictates how much you’ll transfer into savings ($5 minimum) and how often (weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly).
The more money you save, the more “coins” you earn, which can be used to play games on the platform. Some games reward you with additional coins, while others reward you with cash that’s added to your savings account.
It’s important to note that you keep 100% of the money you deposit. You’re not buying coins to play games — LGS is paying you in “coins,” on top of a reasonable interest rate.
To start earning, users register with the online games they want to play that are offered on the site. Popular games include World of Tanks and Star Trek Online.
Players then complete “quests” in order to collect bananas. A quest might mean winning a certain number of rounds, or achieving a certain score.
Once a quest is completed, players must then submit a screenshot as proof. Once the screenshot is verified, your bananas will be sent within 48 hours.
The site also offers other ways to earn bananas, including testing apps, shopping, and watching ads.
#14. Brain Battle
Many of the games on Brain Battle are puzzle games or brain-teaser challenges. Playing games earns tickets for drawings, through which you can win cash rewards.
The more tickets you collect, the better your odds of winning the grand prize. If you win, you’ll receive your cash prize via PayPal.
WorldWinner offers some free games, but if you want to get paid to play on the site you’ll have to pay to enter tournaments.
For each tournament, you can see how many people you’re playing against, the amount of the prize money, and how much it costs to enter. If you win the tournament, the prize money will be added to your WorldWinner account balance.
Your earnings can be cashed out through PayPal, a prepaid debit card, or via check.
If you decide to play on WorldWinner, sign-up through InboxDollars, as you’ll earn up to 2% cash-back on your tournament entry fees.
#16. GSN Cash Games
As with WorldWinner, GSN Cash Games allows you to compete against other players for cash prizes. Before you choose a game, you can see how many players you’ll be pitted against, how much the cash prize is, and how much it costs to enter.
Any prize money is credited to your GSN account, which you can then cash out via PayPal, prepaid credit card, or check.
Skillz is a tournament site that lets gamers from all over the world compete for cash prizes. In order to compete for cash, you have to deposit funds into your Skillz account using a credit card, debit card or PayPal account.
You can enter cash tournaments, and any winnings you accumulate can be transferred to your PayPal account.
Pogo offers free and paid games. When you join Club Pogo for $6.99 a month, you’ll have access to tournament competitions and several dozen member-exclusive games.
Players don’t earn cash directly, but instead are entered into a daily sweepstakes for a jackpot that can be worth up to $500.
How to Get Paid to Play Games — Summary
I hope you enjoyed this guide on how to get paid to play video games.
Possibilities to have a legit online job within the industry have never been better. Furthermore, for those that don’t desire a new job, money making apps make it possible to earn extra income for doing something you love.