How to make serious cash playing video games
Playing video games is turning into a serious side hustle for people who are capitalising on the increasing popularity of gaming as a pastime instead of watching TV and movies.
Technology provider Lenovo research reveals seven in 10 Australians regularly spend time gaming, whether it is such games as Super Mario Bros, Fortnite, FIFA 21 or Scrabble, on devices ranging from mobile phones to racing simulators.
Savvy gamers are streaming themselves playing for a fee, in which fans will subscribe to watch them play or provide one-off payments to show support for their skill.
E-sports is another growing area in which players compete for prize money or are paid by traditional sporting teams to represent them on the virtual field.
Gamers also can be paid by sponsors and earn portions of ad revenue.
Lenovo gaming business development manager Ben Williams says in the past year there has been a particular increase in gamers monetising their hobby as they have spent more time at home.
Many people also have bought new devices to work from home that they are using to game, he says.
"People have access to tools that allow them to try their hand at things like streaming and creating content," he says.
"The device that I use for spreadsheets is the same device I use to play Call of Duty."
Jenna Afarian, 30, whose username is Kitarei, has been playing video games since she was four years old, starting on the original PlayStation with her dad.
"I've been doing it my whole life, it's been a big hobby of mine," she says.
"I was never interested in going out, I like to read books and play computer games.
"With streaming, I stumbled into it.
"When I first started streaming, I wasn't thinking of it from a financial perspective.
"I went live for the first time from my PlayStation console and I didn't have any equipment.
"I got my first subscriber stream, and I thought I could be gaming for fun but I could turn it into a viable side gig."
Fans can still watch for free and the choice is theirs as to whether they want to support her financially.
Afarian estimates she spends about 15 hours a week over three or four days streaming.
"I do have a full-time job, I work 40 hours a week, I come home and do this after dinner," she says.
E-sports, meanwhile, can be incredibly lucrative for gamers, if they have the ability to match it with - and beat - the best players in the world.
Gamers earn money in tournaments, which can be in a virtual sport such as motor racing, or other competitions such as a war game.
Queensland University of Technology e-sports program co-founder Michael Trotter says Australia's top e-sports earner has accumulated $6 million in prize money in his four-year career.
However the total winnings of other top-earning players tapers off substantially, with the 10th biggest Australian earner, for example, bringing in $97,000 over his seven-year career.
Still, it is a substantial side gig.
Trotter, who is completing PhD research into e-sports, says prize money pools are growing as e-sports' popularity across the world grows, with one next year surpassing $40 million.
"It's a big industry but it's also one that is underground a bit, and not something that is in mainstream media," he says.
"There's about 201 million people who are classed as (esports) enthusiasts and that number if growing at a rate of about 15 per cent (a year)."
Gamers start off in low level or local competitions and gain a ranking that can lead to them joining bigger competitions across the world.
The most professional gamers can spend five hours a day, five days a week preparing for a weekend competition.
"At the top end, players get signed on to esports organisations," Trotter says.
"In local online competitions, you could earn a few hundred dollars."
Afarian says any gamer who wants to monetise their hobby should just "dive in and start".
"One of the hardest parts is hitting the go-live button," she says.
"There's a big level of anxiety of broadcasting, especially when you've never done that before.
"Once it's up and running, it's quite beautiful to connect with people all over the world and share your passion."
HOW TO GET PAID WHILE GAMING
GET A REASONABLE PC AND INTERNET CONNECTION.
To get started, most modern computers will have a suitable operating system to run the gaming and videoing software concurrently, and have a camera to record the vision.
Equipment, such as a better screen, webcam, microphone and speakers, can be upgraded once people are paying for the content.
SIGN UP TO STREAMING SERVICES.
Many sites enable people to subscribe to a gamer's account.
A Twitch subscription, for example, starts at US$4.99 a month, from which the gamer receives a portion.
The subscriber gains access to a chat function so fans can talk to gamers, or they can watch ad-free and view special subscriber-only streams.
One-off payments also can be made.
Facebook, for example, allows fans to purchase "stars", which they can give to a gamer while watching their stream to show their support in general or recognise particular skill shown at a moment during the game. Gamers receive one cent for each star a fan sends.
Gamers also can earn a portion from ad revenue.
Once gamers achieve a certain number of views a month or a week on YouTube, for example, they will receive a portion of the advertising revenue. Check the Terms of Service for the latest requirements.
Skill particularly applies when playing esports.
However fans may also engage with gamers who are willing to interact with fans, often posts content, and play games they are interested in.
Practising may include personal presentation as well as achieving in a game.
It can take several weeks or even months to build the viewer base required so gaming more often also will help.
A basic income is $100 a week.
At the top end, gamers can earn more than $100,000 a year just from advertising revenue, with prize pools and sponsorships additional.
Originally published as How to make serious cash playing video games