Rounding it up
Professional gamers and commentators are making more money than ever before.
There are many ways to make a living with online gaming.
Playing games to make money takes work but can be rewarding.
The trick is to make sure a gamer produces meaningful content for the viewers.
An interesting development over the past ten years is the rise of professional gamers and a gaming industry that awards millions of dollars to winners of professional tournaments. In addition, the creation of streaming websites such as Twitch and Facebook Gaming, along with fan support websites such as Patreon, have created an industry of people that can make money – often a full-time living – from videogames.
While it might sound like a dream job to play or comment on games and make money, there are a lot of details necessary to understand before pursuing professional gaming. This article will cover the basics of how people make money from gaming and offer ideas for anyone that is interested in making money from gaming.
How much do professional gamers make?
This question gets asked a lot by those that want to start making money from gaming, for good reason. But there really is no standard answer. When you make money from gaming, you’re becoming what is known as a content creator—someone who creates content for others to view. In essence, this is like starting your own business, and in business, there is no such thing as a regular paycheque. In addition, there are many different ways to make money in gaming and for each way, there are different amounts that viewers are interested in paying.
At the moment, most professional gamers have six different income streams, which we’ll go over.
The base of gamers' incomes comes from monthly subscriptions to their streaming services; the main streaming platforms are Twitch and Facebook Gaming. The concept is that fans of your gaming will pay you, say $5 every month, to support you and encourage more monthly content of the games they love. Twitch handles all of the payment processing and details of the subscription services and takes 30% as its share of each subscription. That leaves the gamer with $3.50 for each $5 subscription.
There are many different levels of subscriptions that each gamer can offer and often those viewers that pay more for the subscription get extra perks like special content or custom titles that they show off in the gamer’s chat room. For example, according to twitchtracker.com, the gamer with the highest number of subscribers right now is former Overwatch professional gamer XQCOW and as of October, he had a total of 84,012 active subscriptions. This totals around $200,000 per month for the player! Not a bad living for doing something they love.
While XQCOW is currently at the top of the charts, there are plenty of gamers that earn $1,000 to $2,000 a month for streaming. While subscriptions are the bread and butter of professional gamers, there’s more to it than just that. And more ways gamers can make money.
One way that gamers make money from their subscriptions is through donations. Twitch and Facebook Gaming allow people watching to make a financial donation to their favorite streamers or commentators. While this might seem strange to an outsider of the gaming world, it’s common for fans to want to support their favourite creators. Each donation not only helps the person creating the gaming content, but it gives resources to the community and encourages game developers to keep improving games through feedback. It’s not uncommon for streamers to receive regular donations that range from $5 to $100 per day when streaming.
After subscriptions, the main source of revenue for gamers is advertising. Twitch and YouTube both feature ads that interrupt the stream of video with products from companies. For every view that a gamer gets on Twitch or Youtube, they get a certain amount of money that changes a bit depending on the ad that ran. For YouTube, a content creator like a gamer will receive around $15 for every 1,000 views of an uploaded video. This might not seem like a lot, but take The Viper, a professional Age of Empire II and IV player, who receives around 20,000 views for each of his YouTube uploads. That’s $300 per video, and he uploads around two videos every day. In addition, these videos continue to make money over time as people stumble on them. Every now and then The Viper will have a video with several hundred thousand views. The more views, the more people watch, the more money the videos end up making.
In many ways, the gaming and streaming businesses are not much different from traditional TV or newspaper businesses. The foundation is the subscribers, next is the passing readers, and the more people that subscribe and view, the more money advertisers are willing to pay for access to those readers or viewers. The difference with online is that there are many more options for gamers to make money. In addition to advertising for views, there is the option for gamers to find business sponsors.
Savvy online gamers are those that create pleasing content for viewers and learn what viewers like and dislike. Over time, gamers realize that their viewers might like certain products and so they partner with those companies for sponsorships. Sponsorships are common in professional sports across the world: look at the uniforms of soccer teams that are covered in different business logos.
This is a form of advertising, but it’s different from pay per view. Instead, the gamer agrees to showcase the product of a business in exchange for a lump cash payment per month or per year. These partnerships can range from small businesses that sponsor a gamer to mega-corporations that pay out tens of thousands of dollars to a single gamer.
According to the website esportsearnings.com, the prize pool for tournament winnings has grown into hundreds of millions of dollars over the past five years. It’s expected to cross over a billion dollars in the next year. If you’re a good player, a lot of money can be earned from tournaments in every game style from chess to sports and shooting games and everything in between. There is a seemingly endless niche for every type of game where a tournament can be put together.
But there is more at stake than just winning big cash prizes. When a player can compete in a tournament, the other streams of income listed above will increase as more people are made aware of a gamer’s existence. Just competing in a tournament is enough to get a player a constant stream of subscriptions and advertising dollars if they play well and provide insightful content to viewers.
To take part in tournaments, you must have a good internet connection and an excellent gaming PC. This article here tells you more about how to finance a gaming computer to take part in professional gaming streaming.
One often overlooked area of profits in any business comes from branded merchandise. These can be as simple as shirts with the gamer’s logo or as complex as digital products such as NFTs or labels that viewers buy on sites like Twitch. As the community grows around a gamer, inside jokes and shared moments can be taken and branded into merchandise that viewers can purchase. The limits of merchandise opportunities are often just limits of the imagination in the mind of the gamer
Player vs commentator vs designer
Before we wrap, it’s important to realize there are many more ways to make money in online gaming than just playing games. While gamers that stream are the foundation of the gaming industry, there’s a whole range of opportunities that people can engage in to make money online.
For example, commentators have become industry leaders in online gaming. These commentators will watch others play games and give running commentary while the game is going on. This is standard in professional sports, but online commentators also have the ability to earn subscriptions, donations, host tournaments, and make money advertising as listed above. The difference is that they can earn more than gamers sometimes and turn tournaments into huge money-making opportunists. Remember, it is about providing engaging content to viewers, not just about being good at a game.
There are also plenty of people that work behind the scenes. Streamers pay graphic designers for logos and digital products. Video editors help make YouTube videos more engaging and fun to watch. Programmers create new programs that work with the games to add different twists for streamers to work with. All these invisible background professions often pay more regularly compared to just playing games, and they are a growing part of the streaming business.
Getting 5% back
If you’re a gamer looking to get serious about updating your rig with the hopes of making money in the industry, one of the benefits of KOHO is that it offers 5% back on the KOHO gamer card. This includes 5% back on purchases made from companies such as Twitch, Steam, Xbox, Playstation, and much more. So, why not earn a little extra cash on your journey to going pro?
Dan is a runner and writer living in the Washington, D.C. area, where he currently works for a financial services trade association as the Communications Director.