June 24th, 2011
When I was young, my parents thought the time I spent playing video was wasted. And for the most part it was. But now the “kids” can become a legitimate way of playing career. Here are six ways to start earning money from video games …
1. Sell your gold
MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing games) like World of Warcraft, Rift, and EVE Online is based on the currency: gold, platinum, and crowns, respectively. When you kill a bad guy or complete a mission or missions, the game rewards you with a certain amount of its currency. As the game and advance your character, you must complete tasks and the enemies you face increasingly difficult – but the rewards are greater.
Yet there will always be people who want the reward without the work. And that’s where your opportunity to make a little money comes in. A simple search for something like “sell world of warcraft gold” returns millions of results.
Typical rates for selling World of Warcraft gold are between 50 cents and $1.50 for 1,000 pieces. If that sounds like a lot of gold for not a lot of money, it is. The best players, with the highest-level characters playing as efficiently as possible, might take an hour to earn it.
So while we are earning money playing a game, we’re not earning the kind of cash that can support a family. And besides, selling your in-game rewards for real world cash may get you booted from the game. (Some allow it, some don’t.) But don’t worry, because there are ways to make a lot more.
2. Get a second job (and a Second Life)
The popular virtual world Second Life is teeming with ways to earn a few real world dollars. If you’re unfamiliar with Second Life, the premise of the “game” is simple – it’s a virtual world that tries to model the real world with one notable exception: You can fly.
You can also own real estate, design clothing, open a casino, run a night club, model swimwear, or start a rock band. If you’re good enough at any of these things, you can actually make a nice bit of real world money.
Second Life minted its first millionaire in 2006 when it was announced that a woman named Anshe Chung had acquired more than $1,000,000 real dollars worth of virtual real estate. Since then, it has been revealed that several other individuals and in-game corporations have been cashing out in excess of $1 million per year. In 2010 alone, almost $119 million was traded between players.
But just like the real world, big rewards are the result of lots of hard work, talent, and a little luck. Don’t expect to become a millionaire in the virtual world overnight.
3. Start a blog or fan site
Prefer working exclusively in the real world? Start a blog or fan site with information or tips for your favorite games. Not only will you enjoy writing about something you play, you might make a few bucks by placing ads on your site (like Google AdSense). But there are also those who’ve leveraged their fandom into a career.
Just one week ago, BioWare, the developer of the upcoming Star Wars: The Old Republic online game, made its third fan site hire. Ken Hinxman, developer of TOR Syndicate, got a job doing web Q&A with BioWare because of his obvious love for a game that has yet to be released (and his skills at creating a community around it). It’s a real job, with real pay, from a real company, with real benefits, in the real city of Austin, Texas.
Companies like to hire people who are enthused about their products, even more so when they demonstrate serious skill doing the work to build those products. So…
4. Mod the game
If you really want to turn a video game into a career, modify it. The creator of one of my favorite Half Life 2 mods, MINERVA: Metastasis, was hired by developer Valve in 2008. His mod is free for anyone to download, and it extends the game by providing a new story, new gameplay, and new environments.
Earlier this year, another developer created a version of World of Warcraft he called World of StarCraft (a meld of Blizzard’s popular games World of Warcraft and StarCraft) and posted a video of it on YouTube. Blizzard was less than thrilled and had the video removed, but competing developer Riot Games saw the work and offered him a job.
5. Invest in virtual markets
You don’t even have to play a game to profit from it. Second Life has an official stock market dedicated to buying and selling its Linden currency, called LindeX. Prices remain fairly stable, between L$250 and L$260 per $1 USD, and with $31.5 million traded in Q1 2011, it’s a very real market.
And if you’re willing to dig a little deeper into these games, you’ll find that many have in-game auction houses where players can buy and sell the items they receive for completing tasks or vanquishing foes. The same rules as any other market apply: Buy something like “King’s Amber” when it’s low, and sell when it’s high.
6. Steal from other players
Legally isn’t the only way to make money. The uber-complicated EVE Online has one rule: There are no rules. Seriously. Deceit and treachery are part of the game, and it’s not uncommon to hear about a player who has swindled another out of a large sum of money.
In what may be the biggest blow ever virtual user named “Cally” started a bank in the game in 2006, called Eve Intergalactic Bank. The bank offers loans, interest and insurance as a real bank would. But unlike a real bank, after a few months of taking deposits attracted Cally just the money from everyone, to keep it for themselves. Supposedly he ran away with 790 000 000 000 ISK, which at the time was worth as much as $ 170,000.