At any time of the day, almost three million people are playing Fortnite at the same time. According to its developer Epic Games, the video game had a total of 350 million registered accounts in 2020.
Users can level up by opening chests, obtaining “skins”, weapons or powers, achieving crowns or eliminating other players. Frequent players accumulate experience points, and they can also earn profits by purchasing items offered in the game itself.
According to the American consulting firm Newzoo, the world of video games generates annual sales of around 150 billion euros. The number exceeds that of the film and music industries combined, and the trend is rising. The business isn’t just profitable for big developers: External markets sell costumes, bows, knives, screws, powers, virtues, keys, and cases – and accounts.
Javier Collado, 26, has entered the business where everything is virtual except money (although some operations use cryptocurrency). He has played video games his entire life. His friends are players from other parts of the world whom he has never met in person. One of them told him that there he could make his pastime profitable: create accounts, play and level up, and then sell them to other players. The idea of making a profit appealed to him. He has now sold more than a thousand accounts. He doesn’t consider it a business as he uses the profits to pay for his aviation education and to complete the flight hours he needs as a commercial pilot. But thanks to his hobby, he now earns “between 1,200 and 1,500 euros a month,” he says.
It started with an account. He played the game “from dawn to dusk” for a week and had it ready for sale. He repeated the maneuver about 20 more times. The account that brought him the most money made 300 euros. In his prime months, after Christmas, one of the times when his services are most popular, he earned €3,000. (The platforms that facilitate buying and selling keep between 15% and 20% of the revenue.) Collado has an accountant, makes its returns, and pays taxes.
After his first foray into the business, he saw that it was taking a lot of his time. He had made a name for himself among the players and became mainly a middleman: he buys accounts in bulk and then resells them, using his reputation and the rating of his previous buyers. This reputation allows him to buy accounts for one to three euros and sell them for about 20 euros after checking and playing partially to increase the level. “I try to make sure that nothing can cause problems for the buyers. I take my share of the responsibility and I want the experience to be fruitful for everyone,” he says, explaining that there are hackers who steal and sell accounts.
The motivation is clear: “Games are competitive systems. You go up and down levels. There are people who want to skip the time that has to be invested in the first levels, or others who get stuck at one level after years of experience and want to go up another path,” he explains. Such advances are frowned upon, but several online sites serve as platforms for sellers and buyers, and even manage guarantee schemes. Some of them even withhold payment for several weeks until the buyer checks that everything is in order and that the purchase corresponds to the offer.
Collado believes that game owners know these sites. The market for accounts creates more interest in gambling, more motivation for those who open a new account believing they can improve, and more incentives.
Anyone can get into the business, as Javier Collado knows. But he’s not afraid of losing his market share: users are very competitive and usually go to account resellers who offer them guarantees or who, like him, specialize in certain games.