How to be a Dark Gamer: Legal (and not so legal) ways to make money from video games
Note: Some of the suggestions listed here may violate the terms and agreements for some games. They may also be considered illegal in some countries. So continue at your own risk. GameSkinny does not condone illegal activity of any sort.
If you clicked on this article, you're interested in turning video games into a source of income. If you have played MMOs, then you probably have also seen your share of bots or gold farmers. While there are entire businesses made out of this, from forcing prison labor in China to play World of Warcraft, to gold selling websites, what I'm going to be going over focuses on the legal and not-so-legal ways you can make money.
How to make Money while Gaming
Now while some games take an active stance against selling digital currency or items for cash, you have moments and games that allow it. Take for instance the Auction House in Diablo 3. Until March 18th, 2014, players could sell items for up to $250 in cash. Or, you could sell things for gold at a higher price and exchange that gold for cash. However, seeing how the game was transformed into an income, Blizzard removed it from the game.
But lets face it. For every person who is willing to use their free-time to grind their character's gear and experience, there is going to be another person who has less time but as much motivation to reach the same goal. With this in mind, Become a Dark Gamer by reading these 4 crucial lessons.
So before we go through to the lessons, the best thing might be to look at a four ways to make money. and go into detail on how to use them later. Also it is something you can keep in mind while going over setting up your goals, doing your market research, coming up with a value for your time, and knowing how you should stay fit.
Now, why should you consider streaming your gameplay if what you might be doing can get pretty boring? Because there might be someone interested in just that. Just like how you are reading this article now, another person may be interested in watching it live themselves. Plus, you're basically making money from something you will be doing already, which is playing games.
If you are still not convinced, think of it as applying for financial aid. Even if it is just $20, that's 20 less bucks you don't have to worry about. So check out our guide for getting started with Twitch. If you are going to be playing mobile games and want to stream them, Google released something pretty cool that lets you upload your gameplay to YouTube here, which is big for mobile gamers.
Another way you can make money is through selling game guides. A lot of people might feel hesitant about doing that, because they feel like they are giving away the secrets of their trade. However, there isn't something that states that you should be giving away a guide for what you are doing at the moment, unless you plan on pulling out and switching to another game.
So, lets say that you are level 60, which is the cap level of your game. A guide that could do well is a level 1 to 40 leveling guide. If you focus on how the new content can help with leveling up and include tips and tricks, then you have a more updated competitive edge versus a pre-existing level 1 to 40 leveling guide when level 40 is the cap.
However, if you are going to be pulling out of the game, then by all means create a guide on how to farm the in-game currency or how to game the system. But since you are already building up the experience in the meantime, and since you already did your research about the game at this point, why not make some money from it?
Playing the Auction House
Another thing that can make you rich in-game is learning how to play the Auction House, if it exists. For this, we should split it up into three different main branches.
The first, and easiest way is you get a trade (Gathering skills tend to almost always give you revenue. Specialized trades are more specific in demand, but can give you more currency if not so regularly). If you focus on a specific good, and sell that good, then you can keep a decent revenue stream for yourself.
The second way to play the auction house is to buy from crafters & gatherers and resell it for a profit margin. A good tip if you are going to go this way is to create a secondary character that would handle selling for you. If people notice that you are immediately reselling what you buy from them, then they will get annoyed and maybe refuse service.
The third way involves keeping up with the news and press releases from the game developers. For instance, if a game is releasing a new race of characters, then there will be a need for fresh, entry level crafting goods. Or if there is a new level cap increase, then there would be an increase in demand for potions to power level the characters without rest. If you found out that certain drop rates for an in-game item is going to be nerfed, then you might want to bulk purchase everything and resell it a week later for a profit.
Knowledge is important as a Dark Gamer, so return to Lesson 3 and remember to do your research. Also, check out ways to sell gold at various websites in order to cash out.
Power-Leveling means helping someone else level their character much faster. In order to monetize this, you can either charge per hour, or per level. In order to keep it on the legal side, you aren't taking control of the other person's account. Instead, you are leveling their character with them there. To be able to do this efficiently, you need to make sure that you are at the max level and sufficiently geared. This way, if you were to drag them to a zone where they are at the lower bracket of the safe levels, then you would be able to efficiently boost them through repetitive rare or elite mob killing.
Remember that episode of The Big Bang Theory where they were playing World of Warcraft? Yeah, that's possible. Not all games allow you to directly sell between players. For instance, in some MMOs there are "bind on equip" items, and then there are some that are "binds to account". Take for instance Rift's mounts with some reaching around 17,000 plat (in game currency). 17k plat is roughly equivalent to $85 per mount. While it's safer to sell for the in-game currency then trade that currency for cash, this is something that could be done.
Another example of item trading would be the now defunct auction house in Diablo 3. This is no longer available, due to a decision from Blizzard, but players could trade items for up to $250 for their characters. While another game may do this in the future, it's wise to keep an eye out for games that will allow this. (Sell 4 items and make the monthly rent, it's not a bad deal.)
Another game that allows selling items for money is Team Fortress by Valve. In it, you can trade craftable or loot you get for cash with Valve getting a bit of the profit. It isn't just Team Fortress though. You can search the list of games that you can sell from in the community market. Just be prepared to make your spreadsheets.
Another way to make money from playing games is selling the currency directly to other players. This currency could be made through playing the auction house, selling items, or through grinding the gold as discussed earlier. Think of it as a way to cash out. Just make sure you have a Paypal account so that you can get your hard-earned money.
There are a few ways you can go about it. One is by selling through a third party website, like Player Auctions, where they can assist you with selling and take a cut. Another way is selling peer to peer to your friends or friends of friends. If you decide on using a website, make sure you do your research to find the best fit.
If you want to sell directly, there are a couple of steps you should complete in advance. One is to have another account that you use to trade that is separate from your main one. This is to prevent repercussions from other players. Two is to choose between selling directly in person (if you can), or in-game. You can also do something like buy an item at a crazy price to transfer gold over.
Keep in mind that while this may be in the legal grey zone of making money from games, it is still pretty common. You may have heard of people trading gold for their WoW subscriptions. Personally, I have some friends who do it for extra drinking money. Just make sure you read the EULA of the game you are playing if you decide to go down this path.
Keep these things in mind while going through the rest of the steps. Anyways let us move on to the first lesson, "Time is Money".
Keep in mind some people would be willing to pay to skip ahead.
Lesson 1: Time is Money
This might be the simplest lesson, but it is also one of the most important ones. Not everyone is a workaholic, so you might argue that if you are done with work, the value on your free time is less since you are not trying to make money. While we would usually set up the time value in a minimum wage comparison (if I were to work $15 an hour, I would expect this as a return for my time), we will still need to borrow from the start-up stratosphere to understand cashing out.
Like creating a start-up, you need to find a market that you can step into. While you may think you have an amazing idea, or in this case found an amazing game, if there isn't an existing market for it then it would become harder to be able to step out of it when the time is right. If we were to look at the gold farmers, they are going through an endless loop of farming, moving, farming, and returning to point A after the stuff respawns.
Now while this can make you some in-game currency, it probably wouldn't be the most effective way to take advantage of the market. The most effective way to do this is to set a goal.
Lesson 2: Set a Goal
Just as it is important to realize that the time you are spending has a value, in order to decide on efficiency, you need to have a goal. These goals should be split up into short term and long term. For instance, I want to build a cash cow that I can save resources on and sell for quick cash, but to reach that point, I need to reach the cap level, get a certain level of gear, and start building habits.
Realistic goals are easier to reach than non-realistic goals. For instance, a non-realistic goal could be creating a character and thinking that you will be getting one hundred rare drops a day. As a Dark Gamer, you should not leave things up to the RNG, or Random Number Generator Goddess. While she is fickle, you should accept rewards but leave it up to chance. However if there is a niche market within the game, then taking advantage of it isn't leaving things up to chance and instead can help raise your gold making skills to new heights.
Lesson 3: Do your Research
It is important to go through these steps to avoid something like this.
Not all games are created equal. While there are some games that have much more hype, there is always going to be another that has little to no following. If you are going to be investing your time to play a game, then there are a few things you need to find out first.
What is the median player age for the game?
If the player base is young, then that means you will have trouble finding and selling to people later. This is because the other players either don't have access to a disposable income or they have enough time on their hands to do it themselves.
Is there a following? Are the general reviews positive or negative?
Is there a player-base behind the game, and does it feel like they are going to stick around in the foreseeable future? While some games create a massive hype in the beginning, lack of end-game content can lead to players quitting in the beginning, like with Tera.
Is it easy to break into the game?
Some games have a much steeper slope to climb in order to start making money, with baits in game to encourage players to pay money before they start earning money, like in Entropia.
Is it fun?
Are you going to enjoy playing the game on a personal level? If the answer is no, then no matter how positive the other things are, you don't want to force yourself to play something that you will end up hating.
Does the game allow micro-transactions?
You will have some games, like Entropia or Second Life, which actively allow you to trade in game currency for cash. You also have other games, like Rift, where people can purchase REX from Trion, and exchange that REX in game for platinum.
Going through these things can help you do your research, but it doesn't end there. If you are going to be spending your time on a project, to borrow again from the start-up field, you will want to do all the research you can before you pitch it to the investor [read as yourself].
For Lesson 4, we will go over how to keep costs down from the start. Your latter self will thank you later.
Lesson 4 - Keep down costs (Staying Healthy)
If you want to make money from playing games, then at the same time you have to make sure you don't let your health go to waste. You will be cooped up at home playing working, so it is important to make sure you eat healthy and get proper exercise.
While I'm not saying sign up for a gym membership (we are talking about saving money here), set up time to exercise every day. Also, while you can eat fast cheap food, in the long term the costs are higher. Don't fall into this trap. It doesn't help anyone if the money you are using is going to pay doctors for your failing health.
Build a habit of walking each day, and keep eating fast food to a bare minimum!
From setting up a goal, to doing your research, to methods of making money, we went over the different steps necessary to survive in this business. Try to keep this as a way for you to make money on the side instead of your main source of income. If anything, job security is pretty bad as a Dark Gamer.
But it is a whole lot of fun.
Pierre FouquetMay 1, 2016, 8:25 amFeatured CorrespondentIt doesn't help anyone if the money you are using is going to pay doctors for your failing health." GO NHS!
Eat, crap, don't pay Docs!
That works. :)
Sagger KhraishiMay 1, 2016, 10:02 amFeatured ContributorWell yeah. It doesn't help if by the time you end up cashing out you need to put away most of the money you made on medical fees.
Pierre FouquetMay 1, 2016, 10:17 amFeatured CorrespondentThe NHS is free... Well you fund it via part of your paycheck.
Sagger KhraishiMay 1, 2016, 10:39 amFeatured ContributorAnd suddenly, the voices of millions of wannabe entrepreneurs has met silence and anguish
Sagger KhraishiMay 1, 2016, 8:11 amFeatured ContributorI still love the gif used for lesson 3. I'm glad I finally had a use for it