Also, what do you tell people you do for a living?
March 8, 2012 10:28 AM   Subscribe

What online games can I play to make money?

If, hypothetically, I knew I was going to be out of work and decided I wanted a RADICALLY different career how could I go about earning a living playing online games?

I know that some games used to have black/grey markets for selling in games items on ebay. Are they still alive? Are there other options? I'd rather consider the online poker route as there is too much risk, but I would be willing to consider other options besides WOW, EVE, etc...
posted by kookywon to Work & Money (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Note that an online job that takes no particular skill and anyone can do will pay absolutely terrible money per hour, something like $1/hour is pretty common. Most jobs like this are done by people in countries with extremely low costs of living where it actually makes sense to work for that little. Even grinding in poker which takes skill and involves risk generally doesn't make as much per hour as you would in a minimum wage job in the US unless you are playing at the really high money levels. So while it may be possible to make small amounts of money playing online games, it won't nearly be enough to "earn a living" with.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:53 AM on March 8, 2012

Due to the prominence of foreign, primarily asian, "gold sellers" and how little they're paid and how long/hard they work, I really don't see this being a viable career option in any modern MMO. Plus you don't have the bulk behind you to get people to buy your stuff outside of ebay.

So you can make money in an MMO 3 ways:
Sell gold - you can't really compete w/ the bigger foreign sellers here, sorry
Sell rare items - you would need a concrete and real strategy to obtain items that are by definition random and rare. a game like WoW makes farming these very difficult by having many items bind on pickup.
Create guides that people pay for...? Not likely.

"A living" could be enough to pay your rent and buy ramen, but even that sounds farfetched.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 11:00 AM on March 8, 2012

Second Life
posted by atomicmedia at 11:07 AM on March 8, 2012

Are there any online games that you're really, really good at?
posted by box at 11:49 AM on March 8, 2012

Being an actual item-baron and running a gold farming empire might actually make you money, but it's awfully difficult to break into and it requires tremendously deep knowledge of the game world and the social network to pull off that sort of business. For a view into that world, you should read Play Money. Ultimately, my take-away was that yes there are people making lots of money in that space, but it's definitely not an easy path.

Outside of MMOs, people also make money by being famous game personalities. This takes a long time to build, and is usually super accelerated by being involved with a competitive game at a professional level. Take a look at sites like or the core streaming sites like There are a handful of people who make good money without being at the top of the competitive scene (Destiny or Guardsman Bob) but they're far and away the exceptions to the rule and are naturally charismatic and engaging. If you're a natural public figure and great at a particular game, this might be viable, but it's a long shot.

Online poker seems to me like it's far and away the most viable path to actually making money. It doesn't depend on an audience and if you're legitimately good at poker, it's way more feasible that you can make real money because the actual game itself involves money, unlike any of these advertising or item-based business models.
posted by heresiarch at 12:28 PM on March 8, 2012

You could become an in-house tester for a video game company developing an online game. Then you'd make at least minimum wage. And although your work would probably be very monotonous, it might not be as monotonous as a gold farmer's.
posted by Vorteks at 12:53 PM on March 8, 2012

Response by poster: I'm not intending to become a gold farmer or anything. In all honesty, I was curious because of the ultima online discussion on the blue. I just wanted to see if anyone had a 'my roommate was out of work for 2 months and he made enough from selling items on ebay to make rent and buy food' stories.

I had forgotten about second life. I remember people selling stuff there, but I've never played it. I am a developer so I guess I could look into that, or developing mobile apps.

heresiarch, thanks for the excellent response.
posted by kookywon at 1:10 PM on March 8, 2012

If you get really f__king good at it, you can make decent money playing professional starcraft. There are regular tournaments around the world, where competitors fly in on their teams dime, and have the opportunity to win lots o' cash. Check it out
posted by KeSetAffinityThread at 1:41 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

In all honesty, I was curious because of the ultima online discussion on the blue.

Most of those stories are fairly old. The market has changed - companies are savvier, the gold-farmers are professionals, and unless you're in the right place to abuse an exploit before it's fixed, it's really hard to get far enough ahead of the market to make a living. Gold-farming in general is fairly high-risk for an individual, too, because it's generally a violation of the terms of service one way or another and you're always at risk of having your account closed and your "goods" confiscated. If you have a large enough operation that you can absorb those losses, then you can do it, but these days that's mostly the province of Asian sweatshops.

(UO was and is unusual because gold-selling is not a violation of the terms of service and never has been - most of the ultra-efficient ways to make money are, though.)
posted by restless_nomad at 2:16 PM on March 8, 2012

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