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This post shows you exactly how to get paid to play computer, smartphone and video games.
Whether you’re a hard-core gamer looking to break into competitive e-sports or someone who just wants to make a few bucks playing fun games at home in your spare time, there’s something for you on this list.
And yes, all of these ideas actually work — although some of them are a lot easier to take advantage of than others.
We’ve organized the different options into categories so you can jump directly to the type of opportunity you’re looking for:
Let’s dive in!
Apps and Websites That Pay You to Play Games
Most people know about survey apps that will pay you to answer questions, apps that let you get paid to search the web (in exchange for access to your search data), and couponing apps.
But answering survey questions and clipping digital coupons aren’t exactly fun activities. What if there was a more entertaining way to pass the time while making a little bit of extra cash?
It turns out there are more than a few apps that pay you to play games. Here are some of the best.
Note that the user rating data shown in the tables below was collected in March 2021. We update this post periodically throughout the year to keep these numbers fresh.Google Play Store RatingiOS App Store Rating4.1/5 with 175,192 votesNo iOS version
Mistplay is an Android app where you can earn points for playing (and sometimes for testing) new games.
The longer you play a game, and the more games you play, the more points you’ll earn.
You can cash in your points for a variety of gift cards.
Mistplay is a well-known, well-regarded option. Among apps that pay you to play games, it’s the top-of-the-line, thanks to its wide range of options and its reputation for paying users as promised.
Unfortunately, it does not currently offer an iPhone version; Mistplay is only available for Android devices via the Google Play Store.Google Play Store RatingiOS App Store Rating4.0/5 with 55,284 votes4.4/5 with 39,191 reviews
Swagbucks is one of the most comprehensive money making websites around. Members can earn free gift cards for things like answering surveys, watching videos, shopping, and playing a variety of games.
Swagbucks offers a handful of free games, but most of them only pay pennies. In the example screenshot below, the available games pay “Up to 10 SBs,” which is equivalent to 10 cents.You won’t make much money with these free games.
The better way to make money playing games on the site is by logging into your account and navigating to the “Discover” section, where you’ll find an assortment of promotional offers.
There, you can usually find a handful of free desktop and mobile games that offer achievement bonuses.
For example, in the screenshot below you can see that the game Raid: Shadow Legends will pay you 3,000 SBs ($30 in value) for reaching certain in-game milestones.This Swagbucks offer amounts to a $30 reward.
What’s the catch?
Game developers know that dedicated players spend the most money on in-game purchases. They’re hoping that if you play the game long enough, you’ll become invested and choose to buy items, upgrades, character skins and so on.
Hitting the designated in-game goal within the allotted timeframe is usually extremely difficult (if not impossible), so most people who download these games never unlock the bonus. Whatever money they spend in-game is profit for the developer.
Still, this can be a legit way to make money playing games if you’re up to the challenge. Just make sure you go in with realistic expectations about the difficulty and time required.Google Play Store RatingiOS App Store Rating4.6/5 with 10,051 votes4.8/5 with 18,535 reviews
Swagbucks Live — formerly called Swag IQ — is a trivia game show run by Swagbucks. Each weekday, there’s a live trivia game (open the app to find out what time that day’s contest starts).
During the game, a host asks 10 questions and players choose from a selection of multiple choice answers. You have 10 seconds to answer, and are playing live against other players.
If you answer all 10 questions correctly, you win the day’s cash prize. When more than one player answers all 10 questions correctly, the prize is split amongst them.
If you miss a question or don’t answer within the 10 second time limit, you’re disqualified — but you’ll still earn SBs for each correct answer. You can use those SBs to buy a second chance at the grand prize, or you can add them to your balance and redeem them for cash or gift cards.
More info: You can learn more about how the site works in our in-depth Swagbucks review, which goes into detail about the Games section, Swagbucks Live, and other ways to make money on the platform.Google Play Store RatingiOS App Store Rating3.9/5 with 343,847 votes3.8/5 with 10,756 reviews
A little luck is never a bad thing. And for those who can use that luck right about now, Lucktastic (known as Lucktastic Match for iOS) is a free app worth checking out.
Available as an iOS or Android app, Lucktastic allows you to win up to $10,000 playing digital scratch-off tickets (like the kind you get at the grocery store — just on your phone).
How it works is that each day a new set of digital scratch-off tickets is there for you to play. You log in, view the day’s prizes, and play for a chance to win tokens or cash.
The game is 100% free to play, and there are no in-app purchases. The catch is that before you’re given access to a scratch card, you usually have to watch a short commercial or view a banner ad.
When your account reaches $2, you can cash out via gift card. At $10, you can choose to get a paper check mailed to you.
So far, Lucktastic claims they’ve paid out over $3 million in prizes and rewards.
Our insight: Reviews on the app (3.8 on Android and 3.9 on iPhone) are just OK. And while I don’t question that they’ve paid out over $3 million in rewards, they also claim to have paid out over 1 million winners. Looking then at the math, that means it’s quite rare for someone to earn more than $2 to $3 total. So while people actually do win big, know that big paydays are far from the norm.Google Play Store RatingiOS App Store Rating3.9/5 with 102,123 votes4.5/5 with 136,174 reviews
InboxDollars features about 30 web-based arcade games that pay out a few cents per play.
You’ll find a few familiar titles like solitaire, as well as simple puzzle and action games like Monkey Bubble Shooter (which is a color-stacking game).
You can also join WorldWinner through the site. WorldWinner runs cash tournaments for games like spades, Wheel of Fortune and Plinko.
However, the WorldWinner promotion on InboxDollars is cash-back, not a true money-making opportunity; you’ll earn up to 2% back on every $1 spent in cash tournament entry fees. You can learn more about how this works in our Inbox Dollars review.
Like many of the other gaming sites on this list, there are several ways to earn real money with InboxDollars, including reading emails, answering surveys and watching videos. (And you can watch ads for money, too.)
Once you’ve reached the $35 minimum cash-out amount, you can withdraw your earnings via PayPal, gift card or a couple of other options.Google Play Store RatingiOS App Store Rating4.4/5 with 68 votes4.2/5 with 70 reviews
Long Game Rewards is a personal finance game in which players are rewarded for developing savings habits.
Note: The app used to be called Long Game Savings.
To participate, you have to open a savings account with LGR. The account is free, FDIC insured, and managed by a variety of partner banks.
Once your account is set up, you’ll decide on a savings plan that dictates how much you’ll transfer into savings ($5 minimum) and how often (weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly).
The more money you save, the more “coins” you earn, which can be used to play games on the platform. Some games reward you with additional coins, while others reward you with cash that’s added to your savings account.
It’s important to note that you keep 100% of the money you deposit. You’re not buying coins to play games — LGR is paying you in “coins,” on top of a reasonable interest rate.Google Play Store RatingiOS App Store RatingNo Android appNo iOS app
Bananatic is a free web app that rewards users for playing games with “bananas” (points), which can be redeemed for free PayPal money, Amazon gift cards, Steam games and more.
To start earning, users register with the online games they want to play that are offered on the site. Popular games include World of Tanks and Star Trek Online.
Players then complete “quests” in order to collect bananas. A quest might mean winning a certain number of rounds, or achieving a certain score.
Once a quest is completed, players must then submit a screenshot as proof. Once the screenshot is verified, your bananas will be sent within 48 hours.
The site also offers other ways to earn bananas, including testing apps, shopping, and watching ads.Google Play Store RatingiOS App Store RatingNo Android app4.6/5 with 17,600+ reviews
WorldWinner offers some free games, but it is primarily a paid app. That means if you want to earn money by playing games on the platform, you’ll have to pay to enter tournaments.
For each tournament, you can see how many people you’re playing against, the amount of the prize money, and how much it costs to enter. If you win the tournament, the prize money will be added to your WorldWinner account balance.
Your earnings can be cashed out through PayPal, a prepaid debit card, or via check.
If you decide to play on WorldWinner, sign-up through InboxDollars, as you’ll earn up to 2% cash-back on your tournament entry fees.
Just keep in mind: this pay-for-play model essentially makes this an online casino rather than a way to earn real cash.Google Play Store RatingiOS App Store RatingMultiple apps4.4/5 with 23,553 reviews
As with WorldWinner, GSN Casino is a paid app that allows you to compete against other players for cash prizes.
Before you choose a game, you can see how many players you’ll be pitted against, how much the cash prize is, and how much it costs to enter.
Any prize money is credited to your GSN account, which you can then cash out via PayPal, prepaid credit card, or check.
Note that for Android users, there are multiple apps available: a dedicated app for slots, one for Wheel of Fortune, one for casino games and others.Google Play Store RatingiOS App Store Rating4.1/5 with 1,402 votes4.3/5 with 144 reviews
Skillz is a tournament site that lets gamers from all over the world compete for cash prizes. In order to compete for cash, you have to deposit funds into your Skillz account using a credit card, debit card or PayPal account.
You can enter cash tournaments, and any winnings you accumulate can be transferred to your PayPal account.Google Play Store RatingiOS App Store RatingNo Android appNo iOS app
Pogo offers free and paid games. When you join Club Pogo for $6.99 a month, you’ll have access to tournament competitions and several dozen member-exclusive games.
Players don’t earn cash directly, but instead are entered into a daily sweepstakes for a jackpot that can be worth up to $500.
Get Cryptocurrency for Playing Games
The games listed below are a few of the most popular titles in a new class of video games that reward users for playing with cryptocurrency. In most cases, these games are built around the idea of non-fungible tokens — unique digital items secured by the blockchain that hold value and can be sold for USD or traded for cryptocurrency like Bitcoin and Ethereum.
A blockchain-based, Pokemon inspired game where players hatch and raise creatures (called Axies) that do battle with each other. Axies (and other in-game assets) can be sold for a cryptocurrency called SLP, which players can convert into Ehtereum. Players can also earn SLP through battling and by completing in-game tasks. This Medium article offers a quick overview on the game and how it works.
Below is a screenshot that shows the in-game Axie marketplace, although it’s worth noting that users also buy and sell Axies on many other platforms.The in-game marketplace of the crypto-based game Axie Infinity.
A virtual world (similar to Second Life) where players can buy land, build structures, explore and chat with others. The game runs on a cryptocurrency called MANA, which can be sold or exchanged for other cryptos. Since the game was launched in 2017, the MANA-USD exchange rate has gone from about 3 cents to about 93 cents. And as of March 2021, the total market value of all MANA is existence was more than $2 billion USD.
The screenshot below shows a city created inside Decentraland.A scene from inside Decentraland.
Similar to Decentraland, The Sandbox is an open-world land development game where players create tradable in-game structures and assets backed by the blockchain. Within the game itself, players create different “experiences,” which allow others to interact with the world they’ve built.The Sandbox game map. Each square represents a parcel of land; larger squares are multiple parcels that have been combined into “estates.”
A Japanese, Ethereum-based RPG (fully translated into English) in which players gain EXP to level up their characters (farmers, warriors, creators and traders — which all have different strengths and purposes in the game). Each character is actually a non-fungible token (NFT), so the more a player levels them up, the more valuable they may become. Players can collect in-game assets (like rare items) which are also NFTs and can be sold or exchanged for other cryptos.
Here’s a breakdown of the different character classes:The different character types in My Crypto Heroes.The Sandbox: A Minecraft style, open-world creation game with a built-in marketplace for buying, selling and trading assets.Sorare: A fantasy soccer game in which players collect digital trading cards and then assemble them into “squads” to compete against each other, winning more cards (which can be traded or sold) in the process.Check out this website for a list all the major blockchain-based video games in a sortable table.
Earning Money as a Competitive Gamer
This section is not for those who just like to kill time playing Candy Crush or showing off their vocabulary on Words With Friends.
Earning money as a competitive gamer is the equivalent of being a professional athlete. Professional gamers can earn substantial prize money, but people will also pay to watch you play.
In fact, check out what Deloitte (one of the big four accounting firms) had to say about the growth of e-sports in their 2020 Media & Entertainment Industry Outlook:
Another category expected to continue its rapid growth is esports. […] By 2020, the global esports market is expected to generate $1.5 billion in annual revenues, primarily from sponsorships and advertising to an estimated global audience of 600 million fans.
There are many ways to make money playing games competitively, from competing in tournaments to brand sponsorships to streaming. Here are a few of the best options.
If you want to become a paid game player, Twitch — which is a video streaming service owned by Amazon and aimed at gamers — is one of the most realistic options.
There are a few ways you can make money live streaming yourself playing games on Twitch. One way is by adding a donation button to your channel, similar to Patreon donations for podcasters.
Viewers can tip players with an online currency called Bits, which are earned by watching ads (they can also be purchased). If viewers want to tip you, they type “cheerxx” into the chat window, replacing “xx” with the number of Bits they wish to tip. 100 bits is equivalent to $1.40.
Twitch viewers can subscribe to your channel just like YouTube viewers can subscribe to content creator channels. Once you have at least 500 subscribers, you can apply to become a Twitch Partner. If approved as a Partner, you’ll earn about $2.50 per month for each new subscriber. Again, like YouTube, you can also earn ad revenue on your channel.
As you can imagine, making money on Twitch isn’t only about your skills as a gamer but also how engaging and entertaining the audience finds you.
Many gamers also stream on YouTube and/or run their own blog, where they make money from advertising.
Learn more about how to make money as a blogger.
Becoming a competitive gamer and competing at live events is for elite gamers. These people often have coaches, attend camps, and sometimes “train” for up to 16 hours a day.
And it can pay off. Prizes at big events — watched by thousands in an arena and millions more online — can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars (or more).The scene from a recent e-sports competition.
The best-known gamers are sometimes signed to professional teams and earn extra money through sponsorships with companies.
Competitive gamers at this level typically concentrate on a single game (League of Legends and Overwatch are two of the biggest). They may start out streaming on Twitch or YouTube, working to build an audience and a reputation within the industry in hopes of being invited to tournaments, joining a well-known team, and attracting potential sponsors.
If you’re interested, don’t limit your thinking to just videos games. There’s a vibrant scene for competitive card games like Pokémon and Magic: The Gathering, with prize payouts worth tens of thousands of dollars.
XY Gaming lets you compete against other players who have been matched with your skill level.
There are no web-based games; you play games you already own on your gaming consoles, such as Xbox, Playstation or computer. You connect those consoles to XY Gaming and challenge fellow players.
Different games have different player bases and payout levels, but you can earn real cash or other rewards when you play and win tournaments for the most popular titles, like League of Legends and Starcraft.
There are free tournaments, 50/50 tournaments (where the players who finish in the top 50% are rewarded), and Double Up tournaments that require an entry fee (with winners earning double the entry fee).
Careers in the Gaming Industry
Sure you can get paid to play video games if you have elite skills, but the income isn’t exactly steady — and most people aren’t that talented.
Fortunately, “real” jobs in the video game field are out there. They don’t all involve strictly playing video games, but many of them are full-time and can be done from home.
If you’re a coder, an artist or can compose music, you can create and sell video game assets including backgrounds, character models, music and sound effects.
Some places you can sell game assets include Envato Marketplace, GameDev Market, Unity Asset Store, and Unreal Engine Marketplace.
Sometimes, you can also create in-game assets for existing games which can be exchanged for real-life cash.
One example is Linden Labs’ virtual world Second Life, which has its own (massive) internal economy. Users can create in-game content, like clothes or gadgets for their avatars, and then sell those in-game assets for Linden Dollars, which are the game’s virtual currency. There’s a set (floating) exchange rate for Linden Dollars to USD, and many venues for exchanging back and forth between the two.
Second Life players can also earn Linden Dollars by taking on virtual jobs within the world. One of the most popular is buying and selling virtual real estate.
As we’ve seen, professional gamers are a thing and they have fans just like professional athletes, musicians, and actors.
And as we discussed, it’s not all about your skill as a gamer. You can build a brand around a blog that reviews games and gaming consoles, reports on gaming tournaments, and reveals game secrets.
Of course, gaming is a crowded field when it comes to blogging and streaming. You can make money online doing it, but you’re going to find yourself competing with some well-established heavy hitters in the industry.
Instead, pick a niche — a popular game, a particular console, or a certain brand you review. You’ll appeal to a smaller audience but you’ll have less competition, and that will enable you to stand out more quickly.
Building a media brand can take time, but some of your content has the potential to become a source of passive income. Putting in a lot of time and work upfront can pay off on the back end.
If you’d like to learn more about how to start a money-making blog, sign up for my free 14-lesson email course titled “How To Make Your First $1,000 Blogging.”
It’s a comprehensive guide that covers everything from the basics (like how to pick a good domain name) to more advanced topics (like how to actually generate revenue).
Like any industry, video games have spawned dozens of types of jobs. Gamer is just one job; there are designers, coders, artists, event planners, marketing people, game testers and customer support reps.
If you’re looking to get hired by a game company, networking is important (as it is for all careers). Become active in online gaming communities, contribute to blogs and forums, and attend gamer-related meetups, conferences, conventions and live gaming events.
If you have no experience, start a blog, a Twitch stream, or a YouTube channel so that you have somewhere to send the people you meet. The gaming industry is huge, but like with any industry, it’s small at the same time.
If you attend events, you’ll see the same people often, so it’s important to insert yourself into the industry rather than waiting to be invited in. Just like the prom, if you want to go, ask rather than waiting to be asked.
FlexJobs is also a great resource for finding work-from-home video game jobs. We recently did a test search and found over 300 listings, including positions like game tester, community manager and quality assurance specialist.
As you can imagine, since gaming industry jobs are so desirable, there are a lot of scams posing as legit opportunities. That’s especially true when it comes to remote jobs, as it’s a lot easier to pull off a scam when your only interaction with the victim is online.
FlexJobs screens its postings to make sure that the jobs (most of which offer remote positions) are legitimate, so you don’t have to worry about falling prey to a scam artist.
More info: Read our in-depth FlexJobs review to learn about the site.
How to Get Paid to Play Games: Final Thoughts
The possibilities to have a legit online job within the gaming industry have never been better. And depending on which option you choose — and how hard you’re willing to work — you can make some real money by doing so.
On the other hand, not everyone is looking for a career path. In that case, there are plenty of ways to make money playing games that allow you to earn a little bit of extra income via your iPhone or Android device in your spare time.
Read next: The best ways to make money from home.
R.J. Weiss is the founder and editor of The Ways To Wealth, a Certified Financial Planner™, husband and father of three. He's spent the last 10+ years writing about personal finance and has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg, MSN Money, and other publications.