The global gaming industry is worth approximately $336 billion, and its infrastructure allows for significant opportunities and wealth for the three billion people who invest their time and skills in playing games. Today the very best players are considered athletes who are employed as salaried team members for their game of choice. They share prize money at tournaments and are tapped for lucrative sponsorship deals by different brands.
More recently, however, we’re seeing more gamers earn money from online gaming — its digital items, subscriptions, streaming, play-to-earn mechanics, and more. These are additional ways for even casual gamers to share in the global gaming industry, without becoming a profession. In this article, we’ll take a look at how online gaming has evolved into a source of income for many:
A play-to-earn economy
Blockchain can apply to a broad range of sectors, including video games. Play-to-earn games rely on blockchain technology, particularly through non-fungible tokens (NFTs), so people who earn valuable items in-game can sell these for real-world money on their own terms. As NFTs are decentralized, players can easily go to marketplaces both inside and outside the game, without involvement from the game developers.
A lot of upcoming games are actively looking at this model, such as ‘Axie Infinity’, a Pokémon-style game where players try to obtain small love potions (SLPs) to breed new Axies. Moreover, SLPs double as cryptocurrencies to buy and sell on a crypto exchange. By connecting digital assets to traditional economies and fiat currencies, players can transfer their digital time, effort, and earnings into income in the physical world.
The rise of online poker
The concept of play-to-earn gaming is not new. For centuries, classic card games have had a financial component to them, and this has exploded in the internet age. Case in point, online poker allows skilled participants the chance to earn money. In fact, the online poker market saw a surge in popularity over the past few years, becoming part of the global iGaming industry expected to be worth more than $92.9 billion by 2023. Players are encouraged by advancements in technology to try their hand at earning cash on the (virtual) felt, and are bolstered by a number of online poker success stories.
Many top poker players like Daniel Negreanu play high stakes cash games both online and offline. Negreanu himself has earned over $44 million in tournament winnings. Aside from a huge poker bankroll, Negreanu also has income streams from various sponsorship deals. With solid bankroll management, poker players build a strong financial foundation and invest their winnings in real estate, stocks, or various business ventures so their wealth grows in the long-term.
Streaming as a career
Beyond playing well and selling items, many online gamers have found revenue by streaming their games as entertainment. Platforms like Twitch allow players to earn money through channel subscriptions, in-stream ads, Twitch Bits (one-cent tokens viewers tip streamers with), and the “Bounty” system that connects streamers with sponsorship opportunities. Recent streamer payout reports estimate that top streamers can earn $2 million – $9 million directly from Twitch, while less successful ones can get $85,000 – $400,000 in payouts. Of course, these are unconfirmed figures that don’t reflect their actual total income and only around 0.015% of Twitch’s eight million active streamers actually make the median US household income from streaming revenue.
Most successful professional streamers also go beyond Twitch to earn money, usually by offering streams on YouTube, selling their own merch, or including affiliate links in their content. And like we listed among our tips for self-employed people, streamers utilize their connections to their advantage. Most work with other professional streamers and gamers to grow their audience base, sometimes collaborating on content to grow their respective niches.
Overall, online gaming has offered gamers avenues to earn from doing what they enjoy. We can expect the industry to further expand as both technology and gaming trends continue to evolve.