Once a gamer, always a gamer, they say. But there comes a time when you cannot move the controller or the mouse and keyboard as fast as you could back in the day. If you were a pro, that marks the end of your career, and for a casual gamer, it is a sign of moving on to a different hobby, and, more likely than not, probably a job to bring in the dough. If only you could turn back time and work on a proper ‘retirement plan’, as many call it, you could be reaping the rewards of the seeds that were sown in the past.
But it is never too late to start. The first step you take at any time towards achieving a goal is progress. So, if you are a gamer and want to know what you can do to make your passion for gaming a part of your retirement plan, this is the story for you. Here, we will be taking you through the basics of the in-game item market’s economics and talk about the careers you can take up related to the field of gaming and eSports, helping you draft the perfect gamer’s retirement plan.
Skins and the economics of the trade
Almost every single one of you must have heard about how someone in one corner of the world made a fortune by selling an in-game item for a ton of cash. A few years ago, this might have been like a one-off, with some insane collector wanting a specific item and paying a fortune for something that most others would pass up on. Now, the trading of in-game items has become a real business for many, and there are corporations and individuals involved in trading in-game items like CS:GO skins. If you, the gamer, make the right choice at the right time, you could be playing with tons of cash by the time you decide that it’s time to end the grind on your go-to game.
To shed more light on this, we talked to Oliver, a.k.a. Zipel, a legendary CS:GO skins trader, who told us about how the economy has boomed in the last few years and how anyone, if they make the right moves, could profit from it. Before we move on and quote the man himself, here’s some information for the uninitiated.
The in-game items market, which started as a hobby for some, has now transformed into a real profession for many. What happens in these trades is that one person, in exchange for money or a single or a set of equally valued items, trades their in-game item like player skins to another player. While this can be done with in-game items from many games, the titles whose in-game items are the most popular in the trading world are CS:GO, Dota 2, Team Fortress 2, and RUST. Everything here works like the stock market. There are trends and the simple principle of supply and demand that brings the prices of these items up or down.
Now, coming back to what Zipel said. When asked about how viable is it to invest in skins and in-game items, he said, “Investing in skins is insanely viable. Historically, there is only a really short window of time where you could have bought a diversified amount of different skins and be down money today.” “Basically, anything with limited supply that’s old and still has high demand should perform well over time,” he added.
Zipel then shed some light on how an insane investment could cost you a lot of money. Taking the example of an amateur, supposedly millionaire trader, who invested heavily in CS:GO skins recently, but lost a lot of money, because of lack of patience, he said, “It is not investing, it’s stupidity.” What Lunar, the investor who lost a ton of money, did was that he bought a lot of gloves (a type of in-game item in CS:GO), of a variant whose supply was still abundant and ongoing. Then showing a slight stroke of brilliance, he bought 14 of the 40 existing Titan (Holo) stickers from the 2014 EMS One Katowice CS:GO Championship. But it wasn’t going to do him any good because due to his impatience and lack of understanding of the skins market, he sold the items that he had bought for a significant loss, earning a bad reputation in the skins community and himself incurring a financial hit.
This is what should not be done. There is potential for rare in-game items to go over the roof in terms of their pricing. For those still not convinced, as predicted by Zipel, the fabled, Pattern 387, Karambit | Case Hardened (Factory New) knife from CS:GO could sell for as high as 1.5 to 2 million dollars. Sounds crazy, right? It really isn’t. The right investment made at the right time could leave you swimming in money.
Just take the example of the Stockholm 2021 Challengers Stricker Capsule. During the Steam Sale after the major, the capsule was selling for Rs 20. And now it is priced at ₹475 (at the time of writing). The other capsules that were released during the same major are nowhere close in terms of price. So, it is all about making the right decisions at the right time.
On the stage and with words
Before you go all out and spend every single penny you have on some random in-game item, sit back and read through. While it may seem a lucrative option, in-game item investments are not the only way in which gamers can make a fortune. There are other fields too. The most prevalent ones are casting and analytical writing. One is where you go on stage and share your wisdom with the audience, and the other is where you sit back and pen down your thoughts in the form of blog posts and articles. Both are very viable career options.
There have been a ton of professional players and even casual players who have found their way into either of the two above-stated fields of work. Some have done it while being active in the game, while others have done it after they stopped using their keyboards to peek around corners. The question that must be starting to stir up storms in your mind must be, ‘Where do I start?’
Well, for going on either of the paths, you will have to pass your tests. To become a writer, who analyses the gaming scene and shares ‘expert insights’ about the gaming world, all you need to learn is the sorcery of words. For doing that, you need to do two basic exercises, read and write. You can start by reading a ton of articles from your favourite authors, and writing for top-level organizations. If you are a regular reader of SKOAR!, you can consider this part of the process almost done.
While reading, take care of two things, first is the writing style of the author, and second is the way in which they prioritise the facts that are being presented in the story. You will see a ton of variations, but as you read, you will better understand why certain things are done the way that they are. A short online course on writing could also be of a lot of help. You can even take cues from the team here at SKOAR!, if you are genuinely interested in learning the art of writing, write to us, and we would be happy to help you. When it comes to writing, the best thing is to write as much as you can. Collect facts from reliable sources and write stuff on your own. Publish it on a blog, which can be created for free.
The casting path, while being seemingly more intimidating than that of writing, follows the same structure. The only difference here is that instead of reading and writing, you will need to learn how to talk and present yourself in front of an audience. The two things that you will need to do here is watch the best and then practice on your own. Make it a point to watch the pre, mid and post-match shows of different gaming tournaments, where you will, in all probabilities, see a now-retired gamer, or an experienced casual player in the casting panel. Then, when it comes to making your own content, you can make opinion videos on the game of your liking or resort to reviewing and analysing clips of professional players from the eSports scene. Here, again it is very important to properly document everything that you create.
Make your friends and connections in the gaming world read or watch your work. Ask for suggestions and work on them. Once you have perfected the art of writing, you can take the portfolio of articles or videos that you built and approach the right people. After that, it is just about the way that you present your work and the opportunities that come your way. If your blog or for instance, YouTube channel catches the eye of enough people, you might even be able to monetise it yourself! Keep in mind that for either of these options, you need to know the game you’re talking/writing about extremely well.
Streaming is another way in which both professionals and casual gamers have found a way to engage and earn money for themselves, after passing their prime. There is nothing that hasn’t already been said or heard about streaming games. So, here, the only thing that we would ask you to do is, stay consistent. Even Shroud, one of the biggest streamers on Twitch at the moment, once used to stream with less than 10 concurrent viewers. But he stayed consistent, and one thing led to another, and the next thing he knew, he was picked up by a professional organisation to play the game he loved.
After he was done playing professionally, what did he do? Start full-time streaming again, bringing back his days gone by and making it into his version of a retirement plan, where his viewers come to absorb his persona rather than those nasty flicks, which sometimes they also catch a glimpse of.
The two-mission quest
Now that you have all the options laid down, it is time to know what you must do in the preparation stages.
The first thing that you must keep in mind, during your active years as a gamer is to keep an eye on the trends surrounding the industry that you are a part of. Even if you are not a professional, you still should be aware of all that is going on in the scene surrounding the game(s) of your choice. Say if you are a casual CS:GO player, make sure you keep an eye on the skins market, and pro tournaments, watching and listening to pros that made their way into the world of casting. More often than not, you would find insights that will help you in one way or the other. Make sure to keep your eyes and ears wide open, when you are involved with the sport. If you are at the highest level of being professionally involved with the sport, or someone who has logged in thousands of hours in a title, then there is literally no one who should know better than you about everything about the game(s) of your choice.
Having made your observations, you need to act and take the plunge at the right time. If you want to enter the world of casting or writing, then start publishing your work, a year or two prior to, when you would ideally want to put an end to your grind. If you want to become a streamer, then the path that you would follow is the same. Start streaming a year or two before. While doing this, make it a point that you will not let it affect the thing that you are doing at the time. For example, if you are a pro, make your practice the first priority, and content writing or creation the second. Likewise, if you are a casual player, put your main vocation at the helm.
If you are planning on investing in items, then your move would start much before than that of the others. From the very time you have learnt enough and made the observations, you will have to start putting your bets on the right horses. Make sure that they are the ones that are certain to win you the race. This is where your years of trend analysis would come in clutch. Make the moves at the right time, and make sure that everything that you do is not a gamble, but an educated guess. We are calling it that because there is nothing certain to happen here. All of it is based on the market dynamics, which can change in the blink of an eye. So, tread carefully and at your own risk. Never go all in. When you are cashing your investments, make sure you trade with trusted individuals or portals, otherwise, all of your hard work would be scammed off from right under your nose. Choose middlemen wisely when trading and do your pricing research while selling an in-game item, to set the right prices for your inventory.
What’s the M.E.T.A.?
If it were an FPS game, we would have suggested a gun or a style of play here. Given the subjectivity of this topic, there is nothing much to say here. At the end of the day, it is you who has to take the call. If you are someone who is the heart and soul of a LAN party, you could go and try your hand at casting. If you were the one scoring the highest marks in essay assignments in school, then writing may be the way for you. If you are really good with numbers, then go ahead and try your hand at in-game item investing. At the end of the day, it is you who knows yourself the best and writes the story of your life’s game. So, now we leave it to you to figure out what the m.e.t.a. of your life’s game is, and that will help you draft your own gamer’s retirement plan.
This article was originally published in SKOAR! December 2022 issue but has since been updated to include all the latest information.