Given the enormous growth of video games in recent years, it is not surprising that it now forms the basis for a diverse range of careers.
Being involved with the creation of video games is no longer the only way to get paid in the gaming industry, with millions of gamers checking gaming media outlets regularly, an eSports sector worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year, and no end of opportunities to make content around video games, there has never been a better time to be interested making a career around video games.
Of course, YouTube has enjoyed plenty of growth itself during this time, so it only makes sense that a lot of people would look to combine the success potential of YouTube with the demand for video game content.
Still, getting started in this world isn’t always intuitive, and there is a lot of competition, but if you’ve found yourself Googling how to make money on YouTube playing games, you’ve come to the right place.
Get yourself a beverage and make yourself comfortable while we take a deep dive on how to make money on YouTube playing games.
A Brief Note on the Legalities of YouTube Gaming Content
The legalities of gaming on YouTube (or any other video platform for that matter) are deserving of a post of their own; however, it would be irresponsible to not at least cover the basics here.
The specifics will change depending on the publishers and developers in question. It can range from studios like Devolver Digital—who actively encourage people to make content using their games—to Nintendo—who only recently started allowing gamers to create content using their games at all!
For the most part, the rules around video game content can be boiled down to this; you have to add something to the footage.
This could be a running commentary, a review, humorous editing, or any number of options. In other words, you can’t just record a playthrough with no commentary and expect to make money. For one thing, it is against YouTube’s policies to do that, but also it may result in the publisher or developer getting your channel struck.
This is because many larger studios have a similar policy to YouTube, stating that any content made using their games must be transformative. It’s also worth noting that there is a much smaller audience for videos that are essentially just watching someone else play a game with no additional input.
Ideas for Gaming Videos on YouTube
Now that that’s out of the way let’s look at how you can make money playing games on YouTube. Before we get into specific video ideas, it’s worth taking a moment to say that, whatever you do, you should enjoy it on some level.
There is entertainment value in seeing someone who dislikes a particular kind of game playing that game, but if you don’t enjoy any part of the process, you will soon get burned out and not want to continue making videos.
And if there’s one thing that can guarantee you won’t make money on YouTube, it’s not making videos on YouTube.
For most kinds of gaming videos, on the other hand, you should enjoy the game you are playing. If you are forcing yourself to play something you have no interest in, that will come through in your video, and there is a very strong chance your viewers will join you in not being interested.
Now, let’s take a look at some ideas for gaming videos on YouTube!
Let’s Play Videos
Probably the most popular kind of gaming video you will find on YouTube are Let’s Play videos, though the term “let’s play” is rarely used anymore since this is kind of the default state for gaming content on YouTube.
These kinds of videos involve the YouTuber playing a game while commentating on what is happening, often with a live feed of their face in a corner of the screen, large enough to see how they are reacting but not too large that it gets in the way of the game.
For the viewers, a large part of why they will tune in is for the YouTuber themselves rather than the game.
The most successful Let’s Play YouTubers have an entertaining persona, and the viewers are typically there more to see that persona than they are to see the game that is being played in the video.
This is how YouTubers like PewDiePie are able to transition from these kinds of videos into other types of content because their subscribers want to see them, not the game.
That being said, it pays to keep your finger on the pulse of what is popular in the YouTube gaming scene, even if you are trading on your screen presence.
It doesn’t hurt to have a go-to game or genre that you cover, but sometimes certain games become incredibly popular, and it can be an excellent opportunity for your channel to grow by capitalising on this kind of trend. The recent explosion of interest in Minecraft, a decade after it first came onto the scene, is an excellent example of this kind of thing happening.
On the subject of having a go-to game or genre, many YouTubers are incredibly successful in making videos playing a specific game. An excellent example of this is Glock9, a YouTuber who almost exclusively makes videos playing the popular survival game, 7 Days to Die, and has seen his subscriber count explode in the last year, gaining nearly 200k subscribers.
If you opt to focus on one game in this manner, don’t be afraid to try something new every once in a while.
You don’t want people to lose interest in your channel before you have had a chance to work through potentially new directions your channel can take. But that could very well happen if you stubbornly stick to the same content even when it is clear people are getting weary of it.
Become a Streamer
In the not-too-distant past, taking this path to make money with gaming would have seen you heading away from YouTube and over to Twitch.
Fortunately, YouTube has started to make serious moves into the streaming arena, and they have seen lots of gamers choosing their platform for streaming as a result. Perhaps the most significant sign of changing times was the arrival of DrDisRespect—an immensely popular Twitch streamer who, after being banned from Twitch for unknown reasons, chose YouTube as the place to continue entertaining his millions of fans.
In a way, streaming content is a lot like Let’s Play content at first glance. The main difference is that streaming is live, so there is no editing of your videos before they go out. This also means you can interact with your subscribers in real-time, as they will be in the chat while you game.
Features like membership and super chat will allow your subscribers to support you in other ways besides the ad revenue that your streams generate, and, should you choose to enable it, your streams can continue living on your channel like regular videos when you are done, creating more potential for earnings with future watches.
One thing to note when starting a career as a streamer is that you will need to have complete control of yourself and your feed.
There are countless stories of people letting an incredibly offensive word slip out of their mouth onstream, or absently engaging in a bit of casual animal abuse.
Incidents like this might not be enough to take down some of the biggest streamers in the world, but they could easily stop your channel from growing.
Reviews and Commentary
Though it’s not strictly playing video games on YouTube, creating reviews and commentary of games will require you to play those games, even though it isn’t necessarily on camera. That being said, you will probably want to use footage of you playing the game for visuals under your commentary.
The thing to remember about this kind of video is that people are not coming to watch you play the game, they are coming to learn about it.
With that in mind, you should tailor the gameplay footage to show the particular aspects of the game that are being talked about at any given moment in the video. And, as far as the talking goes, be sure to cover everything that might be important.
If people are going to come to you to get a sense of whether a game is worth buying, they’ll want to be sure they have a full picture by the time they have finished watching.
You might have noticed that this section is called “reviews and commentary“. True, reviews are a kind of commentary, but there other ways to approach this kind of video.
For example, retrospective videos on important games throughout gaming history, or breakdowns of why a particular game had the impact on the industry that it did. This type of video is incredibly popular in the retro computers community, as talking about games from the 1980s and 90s is right in that wheelhouse.
Choosing the style of YouTube gamer you want to be is essential, of course, but there are some factors that are applicable regardless of what kind of video you intend to make.
Find a Niche
If you’ve spent any time reading advice on succeeding on YouTube, you will already know this one. Finding your niche might be the most significant key to success on YouTube (after making great content, of course). If you are one of a very small number of people serving a particular niche, you stand to gain a lot more views from that niche by virtue of there not being many other options.
In short, you reduce your competition.
Now, you may be supremely confident in your ability to bring in the subscribers, and perhaps you don’t worry about competition for that reason.
Unfortunately, given the sheer volume of YouTubers out there, it can be very difficult to get noticed, even for an extremely talented and entertaining YouTuber. But if that talented and entertaining YouTuber chooses a niche, they are more likely to be seen by the people with that interest, and from there the talent will take over.
Once that YouTuber is established, they can branch out into other areas.
In terms of gaming, your niche could be very specific—such as videos on one particular game—or a little broader in scope—such as a particular genre or style of game—but you should try to narrow it down to something. Just playing video games will likely get lost in the algorithm shuffle.
Offer Something Unique
As important as finding your niche is, there will still be more work to do.
The chances of you finding a niche that is both dramatically underserved but also popular enough to attract the kind of numbers you would need to make money is very slim. In other words, you’re still going to have to get noticed in a crowded field of competition, even in a focussed niche.
Granted, a much less crowded field, but crowded nonetheless.
The way you get noticed is by offering your viewers something that other YouTubers aren’t. For personality-based YouTubers, they are the unique component. For other kinds of YouTuber, consider offering a unique perspective.
As an example of how the same niche can be approached in different ways, consider these three channels on computer keyboards.
- TaeKeyboards is a channel that covers both reviews and modding of mechanical keyboards and is very analytical in approach. Keyboards are explored in-depth, and all the details are laid out for the viewer.
- :3ildcat is similar in that it does reviews of a sort, as well as modding videos. However, this channel is considerably more aesthetic and does not feature any spoken word. Instead, the content of the video takes place over pleasant music with annotations.
- Chyrosran22 focuses on keyboard reviews (often older keyboards) and often uses more… colourful language.
Granted, they are not gaming channels, but all three of these channels take a very different approach to what is essentially the same topic.
Gaming is a huge industry, and there is a healthy demand for gaming content on YouTube.
If you can get over the initial hurdle of attracting viewers, and you have something unique to offer them, you will struggle to find an audience with as much earning potential as gaming.