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How I made $200 playing a video game

A few weeks ago I wrote a bit about the launch of Diablo 3. In it, I describe how there’s going to be a real-world economy for items within the game, just like there was during Diablo 2. For a quick refresher, Blizzard, the developer of the video game Diablo 3, has introduced a legal way of buying and selling virtual items for your Diablo characters. It was going to happen anyway, and this way not only can Blizzard provide a safe and secure way of making these transactions happen, but they can also take a fee off the top for each transaction.
I’ve been playing the game since the video game launched, and I’ve spent a fair bit of time on the gold auction house – where you can buy and sell items for in-game gold. They’ve just launched the real-money auction house, and in the week since it launched, I’ve made over $200 selling items on the auction house, without putting a single dollar into the economy. Here’s how I did it.

Played the game

I’ve put a number of hours into the game. As you progress through the game, you’ll find gold and items. Unfortunately, there is a very, extremely small chance of actually finding a good item, currently, so most of the time the items I do find I just trade in straight for the gold, or if they’re good enough, sell on the auction house. Doing this made my character accumulate gold. This was important so that when I started the next phase of my money-making, I had a gold bankroll I could dip into in order to purchase investments.
There are even items in the game that increase the amount of gold that you find, so at times I’ll just put on all the gold finding gear I can and check everywhere for gold. It’s not as fun as actual gameplay, but it can be relaxing and it makes money faster than just trying to level up a character or progress through the game’s hardest difficultly.

Bought low, sold high

Most of the time I’ve put into the game lately has been purely on the auction house. I’ll find items that I feel are undervalued, and I’ll purchase them. Then I’ll sell them for a profit. There are so many people putting up so many items on the auction house, that if you know what you’re doing, you can very easily find those items and resell them for much more than you paid for them. There is a 15% transaction fee (for the gold auction house), so just make sure that you’re reselling for higher than that, but still making your item desirable enough so that someone purchases it straight away.
Finding items that are worth enough can be a little tricky at first, as you might not know what is most valued at that particular point in time. Is it armor, or resistances, or damage? It’s changed over time, so keeping on top of the current trends can allow you to find items that are worth far more than their seller imagines. I often resell items for well over twice what I paid for them, sometimes adding a couple of zeros to the end.

Transition to real money

After you have a decent gold bankroll, you can make the transition to the real money auction house. I started by finding a good item that was worth quite a bit of gold but was still undervalued on the gold auction house. I purchased that item for ~ 800,000 gold, which is worth about 2 hours of gameplay time, or a lucky trade or two on the gold auction house. I turned around and sold that item for $89US. Later on, I found an undervalued item on the real money auction house and turned $15 into $87. I’m not sure who thinks that these items are worth almost a hundred dollars, as I’d never pay for them, but someone out there is obviously willing to. I’ve put a lot of hours into the game and building up my stash, but if I keep going at this pace, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect to make at least minimum wage playing this video game.

Rinse and repeat

There is a bit of luck involved, but if you’re watching the market on a regular basis, once you get a handle on how things are done, you can easily continue to make gold or real money through the Diablo 3 Auction House. To be honest, it feels really weird to get actual money back out of the game. I doubt I could actually do it as any sort of full-time work, but I’m sure that there are people that are doing just that right now, and that they’re making some decent cash doing it. It’s definitely not sustainable, I think because I imagine that there is going to be less money getting pumped into the economy as people grow disinterested in the game, and as more and more items are found, the existing items will become less and less valuable.
Have you ever made money playing video games or any other silly hobby? Have you ever felt dirty getting paid to do something that doesn’t feel like you should be getting paid for? What was it?


  1. SavingMentor

    It was only a matter of time. Wherever there is money to be made buying and reselling people will do it!

    I think you are right though in that this is only really working well for you now because you’re an early adopter. You currently have little in the way of competition and the knowledge of the user base is low. As time goes on:

    1) People will get smarter
    2) The number of people trying to make money at it will increase.
    3) People will find ways to optimize their gameplay much better than yours so they can afford to sell at a lower spread.
    4) People will use cheap labour in foreign countries combined with optimized farming strategies to amass items and gold and flood the market.

  2. Juan

    People spend hours per day playing these games, so there has to be some value for these ingame items.

  3. Lance@MoneyLife&More

    I used to do this with magic the gathering cards but never in video games. I bet people overseas could make a lot of money doing this if the exchange rate is right.

  4. J. Money

    Love this!

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