Gamers Earn $200,000/year Playing World of Warcraft

By: Chris Bottomley

Since the emergence of professional arcade gamers in the 1980's, playing games for a living has been a dream for many children, teenagers and adults alike. Whilst only a lucky few have been able to attach themselves to Donkey Kong for a living, or compete in Korea on the latest first-person shooter, the 21st century has seen the emergence of a whole new generation of professional players. And there are a lot of them!

The world of massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs to the techno-savvy amongst you) has provided opportunist gamers the chance to earn small fortunes from developing fan sites, add-ons, wallpapers and instructional eBooks. But the most profitable niche of all is that of "Real-Money Trading" (RMT). It works quite simply; professional gamers play within MMORPGs with the sole purpose of selling services to other gamers. Yes that's right; millions of people all over the World happily pay out huge sums of money to let people play the game for them. In some cases that's literally true (and is dubbed "power levelling") but for most this includes buying pre-played accounts or buying virtual currency for the game.

By far the most popular target of these services is World of Warcraft, with over 10,000,000 gamers subscribing to the game across the Western world. The game's currency (WoW Gold) is currently the hottest property in the RMT market, with millions of dollars being spent every day to gain this precious in-game resource. Recent estimates suggested that over $500,000,000 in sales were made last year for WoW Gold, and that figure is set to grow still further in 2008. The release of an upcoming expansion pack, Wrath of the Lich King, is set to increase demand still further creating a buying frenzy when the pack is finally released.

Fuelling this money-train is a workforce of near 500,000, largely based in East Asia. There have been many claims that these workers (or "Gold Farmers" as they are dubbed) are poorly paid and badly treated, especially within China. This has tarnished the industry's reputation with many Western gamers, but is largely attributed to a lack of understanding of the cost of living difference between East and West. Whilst $1 per hour won't pay the rent in the USA, it will afford you a very reasonable standard of living in the provinces of China where this work takes place.

Suffice to say, this is an industry to watch, especially if you're an aspiring entrepreneur. Many MMORPG-millionaires have been made to this day and, with many more titles being released on the horizon, the future looks very bright.

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