Play Money: Earning an income by gaming 

Play Money: Earning an income by gaming 

You’ve heard the adage, find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life? This is the perennial question for many youths who wonder what they will do when they grow up.  

Not alone in the animal kingdom, play is a natural part of our lives. It is not only humans that play. We can see it in chimpanzees, cats, dogs, horses, and the list goes on. Of course, our games are more involved. They can be simple, such as tag, or involve equipment like a glove, bat, bases, and a ball. And require a field or a court.  

But we also can play other types of games. More traditionally, there were the early games involving beads, pieces, tokens, and boards. These have evolved to include more types of pieces, more intricate rules, and complex resolution tables.

But, as with all things in the modern world, we now have the electronic version in the form of e-games. These, too, have evolved in depth, complexity, and size.  

While there is money to be made on marketing games as well as sports equipment, just as there are ways to earn a living through one’s prowess at a sport, be it a boxer or point guard, attracting spectators, the same is also now true in the world of e-gaming.   

Newzoo estimated that the overall marketplace for gaming grew from $25B in 2010 to nearly $160B in 2020. And this is not just from providing a platform or software game. The gamers themselves are now getting paid to play.  

Play Money: Earning an income by gaming 

Many can parlay their skills into full-time work. There are stories of how, for example, a Singaporean, Ho Kun Xian, who started playing arcade games in the late ’90s, rose to international fame playing Ultra Street Fighter IV and taking first place at DreamHack Winter 2015.  

Xian is a great example that it does not require a college degree to pull in the big bucks. A scan of High paying jobs without a college degree reinforces that you can find work that does not demand the traditional 16 years of education. However, there are other marketable skills that, as long as you have them, will make your resume stand out.

So where are these jobs?  

The opportunities present themselves through membership in a particular gaming community. When you have developed your skills to be a serious contender, playing for prize money on your own or as part of a team will get you noticed.  

Getting those skills requires practice and support. Many gamers will tell of the uphill battle they faced convincing parents to indulge their passions. 

Being able to both assess your worth and negotiate, especially with your parents who might not see e-gaming as a profession, is tricky.  

But showing that you know something about the market will demonstrate that you have done your research. As with any profession, credibility stems from being armed with facts. But you need to be focusing on those games that are taking off as e-sports. Going for something outside of the mainstream is unlikely to eventually turn into an income or net a cash prize.

Play Money: Earning an income by gaming 

There are 2 key avenues for gamers:

  • Livestream – where others pay to watch you play
  • Tournaments – where you usually physically attend an event, perhaps held in a large venue, and compete with many fellow gamers

Tournaments usually focus on a particular game. Interestingly, they appear highly organized, but in truth, this is a burgeoning industry where the conventions, behavior, and consistency vary from event to event. There is no equivalent of an Olympic committee or commission to ensure standards of behavior are observed. 

At many tournaments, aside from the main competition, one will find breakout sessions and exhibitors. These will offer support, recruiting, sponsors, introductions to other egames, and side events. All of these are opportunities to network and discover other avenues not just to spend time and money but potentially ways to become a superstar competitor. 

Hand in hand with the tournaments is the rise of e-sport teams. Akin to their physical, sporting-world equivalent, these groups cooperate and can find sponsors offering stable income to their members. Cloud9, for example, funds over a dozen teams playing several games, including League of Legends, Counter-Strike, PUBG, Rocket League, and Fortnite. All in all, the company is valued in the 100s of millions of dollars, putting it on par with some physical sports teams. Also, in a nod to following professional sports, these teams trade players.

Salaries vary by league. Overwatch, for example, might pay $50K while League of Legends could be over 300K. Team members also share in the prize money and potentially a cut of any sponsorship deals the team negotiates. A prize pool can run into the millions shared by those that play.

Play Money: Earning an income by gaming 
Rocket League

Sponsorship is equally diverse, ranging from the military to Red Bull. As the game audiences run into the millions, sponsoring a team and/or the tournament prize delivers a great deal of presence for an extended period with people these companies specifically want to target.

Streaming also generates sizeable income, making them popular content for YouTube and Twitch. One can also earn money through patrons, donations, advertising, and merchandise.

With market share continuing to grow for the foreseeable future, looking towards being a professional gamer is no longer wishful thinking.


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