How To Make Money as a Game Developer?

Published: July 10, 2024

The game industry has evolved into a multi-billion-dollar sector.

The gaming market is estimated at US $244.22 billion in 2024 and is expected to reach US $397.21 billion by 2029.

This growth is fueled by the industry’s ability to captivate a wide audience, particularly young adults — and people willing to pay a premium.

Moreover, global internet availability will continue to rise, enabling more people to play online games.

It only makes sense to keep up with the trend for game developers, as it provides new and exciting earning possibilities that won’t tether them to their existing jobs.

Therefore, you must know how to make money as a game developer.

In this post, we will discuss different ways to make money and generate passive income with your game development skills and knowledge.

the gaming market is estimated at us $244.22 billion in 2024 and is expected to reach us $397.21 billion by 2029

18 Ways to Make Money as a Game Developer

Firstly, selling a game is not the only way to make money; you should know that. Today, gaming isn’t just a recreation but a serious career option with a lot of opportunities to earn.

Here are eighteen proven ways to make money as a game developer.

1. Premium Games

According to the MIDiA Research 2023-2030 global games industry forecasts report, the premium game market will account for $42.2 billion of the global games revenue in 2030, with subscription services to become more dominant.

the premium game market will account for $42.2 billion of the global games revenue in 2030, with subscription services to become more dominant.

Premium games are titles that players purchase upfront instead of free-to-play or freemium models.

There is a strong market demand for premium games, particularly among dedicated gamers who value immersive experiences.

Here are some ways to make money by making games of high quality:

  • Direct selling: Sell your game on platforms like Steam, itch.io, and the Epic Games Store. These platforms offer global reach and access to millions of gamers.
  • Mobile Stores: You can sell mobile games as premium titles and consider offering a free demo or a lite version to entice players to purchase the full game.
  • Console Platforms: You can release games on major console platforms to increase your reach, especially among dedicated console gamers.

2. In-Game Purchases

According to Straits Research, the global in-app purchase is projected to reach USD 567.58 billion by 2030. Therefore, the in-game purchases provide substantial revenue.

Following are the ways to earn money with in-game purchases:

  • Microtransactions

You can sell virtual items such as costumes, skins, weapons, and other cosmetic enhancements.

For example, non-essential items allow players to customize their characters or in-game assets. Containers with randomized rewards that players can purchase also exist.

  • Virtual Currencies

You can integrate a virtual currency that players can purchase with real money and use for in-game transactions. The currency can buy items, unlock features, or access special content.

  • DLCs (Downloadable Content)

You can expand the base game with new levels, storylines, characters, and features to earn passive income from in-game purchases.

Smaller, bite-sized content packs, such as new missions, character skins, or in-game items, can be purchased individually.

You can also provide larger DLCs, such as new game regions, major story arcs, or extensive gameplay enhancements.

For example, Pokémon GO in-app purchase revenues surpassed $566 million worldwide in 2023.

Moreover, according to the Guinness World Record, this game generated $206.5 million in revenue in the first month of its launch.

pokémon GO in-app purchase revenues surpassed $566 million worldwide in 2023

3. Advertising Revenue

According to Statista, the In-game advertising market worldwide is projected to reach US $109.60 billion by 2024.

Advertising revenue is a common way to monetize games, especially free-to-play titles.

You can earn money from advertisers who pay to display their content to your players. However, in-game ads can differ based on your genre, type, and monetization goals.

Different types of Ads that you can run on your games to earn money:

  • Banner Ads: Banner ads are placed at the top or bottom of the screen, where they are visible but do not obstruct gameplay.
  • Interstitial Ads: Interstitial ads are full-screen ads that appear at natural breaks in the game. They are more noticeable and generate higher revenue per view than banner ads.
  • Rewarded Ads: Rewarded ads offer players in-game rewards, such as extra lives, currency, or power-ups, in exchange for watching a video ad.

You can control the quantity of ads and strategically place ads in high-exposure game segments.

4. Subscription Models

Subscription models provide a recurring revenue stream, ensuring a steady flow of income over time.

According to the MIDiA report, more than 180 million global game subscriptions were active in 2023, up from about 171 million the year before. They project that number to reach 318.5 million by 2030.

according to the midia report, more than 180 million global game subscriptions were active in 2023, up from about 171 million the year before.

You can offer ongoing value through exclusive content, perks, or enhanced features and incentivize players to subscribe and stay engaged with your game.

Game passes and premium memberships offer game developers recurring revenue by providing players with monthly or annual subscriptions that include exclusive content, perks, and enhanced features.

Game passes grant access to special levels, characters, skins, and regular updates, while premium memberships offer advanced customization options, ad-free gameplay, early access to new content, and community perks.

5. Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is a viable way to raise funds for game development. However, it’s a tool, not a guarantee of success.

Also, crowdfunding in game development falls into categories such as nostalgia or classic games, proof of concept games, and experimental games.

You must know the three major video game crowdfunding platforms: Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and Fig.

Since its inception in 2009, Kickstarter has raised over $2.49 billion for gaming projects. Some favorite live tabletop and video game projects include Frosthaven and Chinatown Detective Agency.

Next up is Indiegogo, which takes a 5% cut when your campaign closes. Unlike Kickstarter, it arises regardless of whether you hit your target.

On the other hand, Fig is an all-or-nothing crowdfunding platform. You either hit your target, or you leave with nothing.

Moreover, as a game developer, you can attract backers who receive early access to the game or special in-game items with pre-orders and rewards. It helps you generate early funding and build a dedicated community of supporters who feel invested in the game’s success.

6. Do Freelancing

Upwork’s Future Workforce Report 2022 revealed that among hiring managers surveyed who engage independent talent, 66% plan to increase their utilization or number of freelancers over the next two years.

As you explore to monetize your game development expertise, freelancing is another great option.

Freelancing as a game developer involves offering your skills and expertise to other developers, studios, or clients on a project-by-project basis.

Create a portfolio website to showcase your completed projects, highlighting your skills, expertise, and the quality of your work. Include detailed descriptions, screenshots, and playable demos.

But do you know how to earn money as a freelance game developer? Consider this:

  • Register on platforms like Upwork, Freelancer, and Fiverr, where clients post game development projects.
  • Leverage your professional network and attend industry events, conferences, and meetups to meet other developers and studios.
  • Join online forums, social media groups, and communities related to game development, such as Reddit’s r/gamedev or Discord servers.

Take on full game development projects, where you create a game from scratch based on the client’s requirements.

You can also provide consulting services to help clients with game design, development strategies, project management, or technical troubleshooting.

7. Offer Consulting Services

the average annual pay for a gaming consultant in the united states is $79,131

The average annual pay for a gaming consultant in the United States is $79,131.

You can monetize your expertise as an experienced game developer by consulting other developers and studios.

It involves providing specialized knowledge in-game mechanics, design, or optimization, which can help clients improve their games and development processes.

Networking can lead to referrals and consulting opportunities. Attend industry conferences, meetups, and online forums to connect with potential clients and other professionals.

You can either:

  • Charge clients hourly for short-term projects or ongoing support
  • Charge a fixed monthly fee for a set number of hours

Moreover, you can customize your consulting services to meet each client’s needs.

8. Selling Game Assets

Selling game assets involves creating and marketing individual components used in game development. You can create and sell various assets, such as characters, environments, sound effects, and scripts.

You can sell these to developers who purchase pre-made game elements to save time and resources.

After all, it sounds like a great way to make some money on the side. But how do you get started?

These are some of the most popular sites that allow you to sell your assets:

  • GameDev Market
  • TurboSquid
  • Game Art 2D
  • Unity Asset Store
  • Unreal Engine Marketplace

Most importantly, your gaming assets must be original and look for something that still needs to be created.

9. Teaching and Educational Content

The online education market is projected to reach US$73.93m in 2024.

So, as a game developer, you can earn money by sharing your knowledge and expertise through educational content.

  • Create Online Courses: You can create your mobile game development course and offer it on platforms like Udemy, Teachable, or Coursera, where you can reach a global audience.
  • Write Tutorials: Write detailed tutorials and guides on game development topics. Publish these on personal blogs, YouTube channels, or tutorial sites like Medium and Gamasutra.

Moreover, you can also monetize through ads, sponsorships, and affiliate marketing or use them to drive traffic to your paid courses and consulting services.

10. Earn Royalties

Earning royalties involves receiving a percentage of revenue from your game over time.

This model ensures a continuous stream of income based on the game’s sales or usage. Royalties can be earned through various distribution channels and agreements.

How much you earn from royalties depends on the details of the contract.

The different sources to earn royalties from your game include:

  • Publishing Agreements: Partner with a game publisher and receive a royalty percentage of the revenue generated.
  • Distribution Platforms: Distribute your game on platforms like Steam, the App Store, Google Play, and consoles (PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo). These platforms take a percentage of each sale; you receive the remaining revenue as royalties.
  • Licensing Agreements: License your game to other companies or developers who wish to use it in their projects or platforms.

11. Participating in Game Jams and Competitions

Participating in game jams and competitions is a great way to earn money while honing their game development skills.

These game jams provide valuable networking opportunities and develop skills. These events challenge developers to create games within a limited time, encouraging innovation and rapid problem-solving.

participating in game jams and competitions is a great way to earn money while honing their game development skills

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the most popular game jams:

  • Ludum Dare
  • Nordic Game Jam
  • Indie Game Jams
  • Global Game Jam
  • Game Maker’s Toolkit

Moreover, these platforms also help you showcase your talent, gain recognition, and secure funding or job opportunities.

You can also earn cash prizes by participating in competitions, directly rewarding your efforts, and boosting your development budget or personal income.

12. Sponsorships and Partnerships

Game developers can collaborate with brands, companies, and influencers to earn money via sponsorship and partnerships.

With billions of gamers globally, the gaming industry is ripe for brand partnerships and collaborations that can help raise awareness and be a massive customer acquisition engine.

These collaborations can help you obtain funding, marketing support, and increased visibility to reach a broader audience and generate additional revenue streams.

Develop custom games for brands or companies that want to engage their audience through interactive experiences.

These branded games can be used for promotional campaigns, events, or a broader marketing strategy.

Also, partner with popular streamers, YouTubers, or social media influencers to promote your game. Influencers can introduce your game to their large and engaged audiences.

13. Developing and Selling Tools

Game developers can earn money by creating and selling tools that assist other developers.

It can include plugins, frameworks, and specialized software for game development processes.

The market for game development tools is substantial. For example, the Unity Asset Store generates over $7.5 million annually.

Here are the two best ways to make money with tools as a game developer:

  • Develop plugins, frameworks, or software designed to simplify or enhance the game development process. These tools can address various needs, such as graphics, physics, sound, AI, etc.
  • Sell these tools directly on platforms like the Unity Asset Store, Unreal Marketplace, or your website. Alternatively, they can be offered as subscription services, providing ongoing updates and support generating a steady income stream.

14. Open Source Contributions

Open-source contributions allow you to earn money while learning game development. It involves creating and sharing software or tools anyone can use, modify, and distribute for free.

Popular open-source tools often attract sponsors who donate money to support ongoing development and maintenance.

Platforms like GitHub Sponsors facilitate these donations, allowing developers to receive financial backing directly from individuals or companies that benefit from their work.

Moreover, Patreon is a platform where developers can earn recurring revenue by offering exclusive content, updates, and perks to supporters who pledge a monthly amount.

This model provides a stable income stream and builds a relationship with a dedicated community of backers.

15. Ad Revenue from Content Creation

Many content creators now earn six figures or more annually through various income streams.

Game developers can earn money through ad revenue by creating and sharing content on platforms like YouTube and Twitch.

Here’s how you can monetize your channel and livestream to earn ad revenue:

  • YouTube Channel

You can enable ads on your videos through the YouTube Partner Program. Earn revenue based on ad views and clicks.

You can also partner with brands and companies to create sponsored content, earning additional income.

Moreover, you can also offer channel memberships, in which subscribers pay a monthly fee for exclusive perks like badges, emojis, and members-only content.

  • Streaming

Stream your gameplay, development process, or tutorials on platforms like Twitch. Receive direct donations from viewers who want to support your work.

You can also earn money from viewers who subscribe to your channel, often receiving special benefits such as ad-free viewing and exclusive content.

16. Selling Game-Related Merchandise

Selling game-related merchandise is a powerful way to monetize your game beyond digital sales and in-game purchases.

selling game-related merchandise is a powerful way to monetize your game beyond digital sales and in-game purchases.

You can create and sell items that feature the game’s branding, characters, logos, or iconic imagery. Common items include T-shirts, hoodies, hats, mugs, posters, phone cases, and stickers.

Use platforms like Shopify, Teespring, or Redbubble to set up an online store for your merchandise.

Release limited-edition merchandise to create a sense of urgency and exclusivity. Include high-quality collectibles like art books, figurines, maps, soundtracks, and unique packaging.

Moreover, you can also partner with retail stores and online marketplaces like Amazon, Best Buy, GameStop, and specialty gaming stores to distribute your physical copies.

17. Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) Games

According to PR Newswire, the global augmented reality and virtual reality in gaming market is projected to reach US $10,110 Million in 2029.

There are immense opportunities to make money in game development with VR and AR technology.

You can develop games that utilize VR capabilities, such as 360-degree environments, motion tracking, and haptic feedback.

With AR, you can focus on creating engaging experiences with the real world, using geolocation, camera input, and augmented overlays.

For example, the AR-based game Jurassic World Alive earned $102 million from player spending across the App Store and Google Play.

Here’s how you can make money by creating VR and AR-based games:

  • Directly sell your VR/AR games with one-time purchases, subscriptions, or episodic releases.
  • Integrate microtransactions for in-game items, skins, or enhancements.
  • Partner with brands to include sponsored content or advertising for VR/AR games.

18. NFTs and Blockchain Games

According to Mordor Intelligence, the Non-fungible tokens (NFT) gaming market size is estimated at US $471.90 billion in 2024 and is expected to reach US $942.58 billion by 2029.

according to mordor intelligence, the non-fungible tokens (nft) gaming market size is estimated at us $471.90 billion in 2024 and is expected to reach us $942.58 billion by 2029

So, as a game developer, you can use NFTs as unique digital assets representing in-game items, characters, or any virtual collectible.

As a game developer, you can design and create NFTs that players can own, trade, or sell. These could be rare weapons, skins, avatars, or even virtual real estate within your game.

Once created, these NFTs can be sold on various NFT marketplaces like OpenSea, Rarible, or your game’s marketplace. Players can purchase these items using cryptocurrency, creating a new revenue stream for you.

Moreover, smart contracts (used to create NFTs) can be programmed to give you a percentage of sales every time an NFT is resold. You can earn a continuous income stream as your NFTs are traded in the secondary market.

Also, integrating blockchain technology into your games can decentralize game ownership and data.

Here’s how you can develop games with blockchain technology for monetization:

  • Play-to-Earn (P2E) Models

Develop games that reward players with cryptocurrency or NFTs for their achievements and time spent in the game.

For example, Axie Infinity allows players to earn tokens that have real-world value.

  • Tokenomics

Design your game’s economy around a native cryptocurrency token. These tokens can be used for in-game purchases, staking, or rewards, creating a self-sustaining economic ecosystem within your game.

For example, Dapper Labs raised $725M 2022 for the game. Web3 games, like CryptoKitties and NFL Rivals, use blockchain and a decentralized approach.

Conclusion

Game development skills are highly valuable beyond the gaming industry.

Passionate gamers now have diverse avenues to turn their love for gaming into income. Each approach has its advantages and considerations.

You can easily generate extra income from traditional methods like selling premium games and in-game purchases to innovative approaches such as NFTs, blockchain games, and VR/AR experiences.

Freelancing, consulting, and creating educational content can diversify income streams while participating in game jams, securing sponsorships, and leveraging open-source contributions can enhance visibility and credibility.

Selling game assets and tools, earning royalties, and engaging in branded partnerships further expand opportunities.

Now that you know how to make money as a game developer, you can combine different ways and build a sustainable and lucrative career by leveraging expertise and maximizing impact.

However, you must understand market demand and focus on delivering value to players and clients.