GRINDING FOR CASH AND PRIZES
This section covers games that let you earn points or virtual currency for playing, which can then be cashed out for tangible goods and services.
Though there are some casino sites listed here, true gambling is NOT covered in this section -- to be listed here, these games require that they provide enough chips, turns or whatever mechanism they use FOR FREE to give you a sporting chance without having to make a purchase. The most common model is to dribble some small amount of free chips or turns to you each day when you log in, but this section isn't restricted solely to games that function that way.
* Social Casinos (Web Browser, Mobile Apps, Facebook)
"Social casinos" are free-to-play casino games that allow you to turn your play money into real prizes through one means or another. These are mostly a United States phenomenon and arose because of the unique gambling and financial transaction laws in this country: basically, online casinos are illegal, but "play money" at mobile phone games isn't considered an actual item of value so it's OK to gamble with that. So you can never cash out play money to real money directly, but it is OK to turn it into prizes through various convoluted means.
We previously included social casinos on this page, but they are booming and now there are so many they were taking over the joint. So they have been moved to their own page, linked below:
-- Go to the Social Casinos page
* Exodus 3000 (Browser) Wow ... I can't believe this is still kicking! Exodus 3000 made a lot of noise way back in 2007 offering "real cash for free play." The game is browser-based and gives you 250 turns every 24 hours (non-stacking), in which you rove around a fairly desolate Mars surface and gather up money and resources. The big draw was that you could exchange these Mars Dollars for real dollars ... but the exchange rate was so high it was unrealistic to expect to ever reach even the minimum $20 payout without purchasing "premium features" that would offset your profits. Even with paid bonuses, you were still looking at an unfeasibly long grind for $20.
Well, you can still cash out your Mars Dollars ... but now the bar has been set even higher! For new players, it takes a whopping one million MD to convert to $20. For frame of reference, a new player wandering around can realistically expect to earn maybe 3k-5k per day. The best the rate ever gets is 300k MD for $20, but you only get that with 80 upgrade points sunk into your home base, which will cost 100s of thousands of MD in and of itself. Oh, and unless you've been a paying subscriber for at least three months, all your upgrades and special cards get wiped out when you cash out. Even if you are a paying subscriber in good standing, you'll still see all your upgrades cut in half. And you also first need to find a Cashout Card, a rare item that has to either be scrounged up from the game world or given to you for six consecutive months of subscription.
As if all that wasn't unfavorable enough, you can also lose your MD while you're not playing. You have a settlement placed randomly on the map when you create a new character, where you start all your daily sessions from. Other players can wander across and attack it, and if they have a higher weapon level than your defense level, they get a chunk of your MD horde! Each player can only attack once per day, but once they find you there's no stopping them from noting your coordinates and making a withdrawal from you once every day. You can stash your MD to some degree in unstealable MD Cards, but these also aren't exactly just lying around either.
So making any amount of money from this game is beyond unrealistic, and it seems like it was originally included just as cheap subscriber bait. The only other Real Lucre possibility is random prizes found when mining volcanoes and searching through ruins, but these are excruciatingly rare. In fact, the game Wiki states that only 75 have been found since 2006! The prizes are currently just Amazon gift certificates for $25, though they previously gave away iPod Nanos and DVD players once in a while.
There seems to be nothing in the game's history that indicates it's ever going to offer any realistic possibility for hauling away booty. Nevertheless, it's maintained enough of a player community to keep going for nearly a decade now, so maybe give it a spin if the idea of Lawrence of Mars-ing it up seems appealing. It'll certainly run on any computer at all, you can say that much for it. I find this music oddly appropriate for meandering around the landscape. Links are referral, I threw together an account just to check it out again (since they apparently long ago nuked my old one for inactivity -- gotta play once every three months now apparently), if you sign up that way I'll get some Mars Bars I'll probably never use, but if 50 people sign up I get a whopping $5. Our In-House Resources: Nothing yet, probably nothing ever Oh I do have one tip -- the new turns roll over at midnight east coast time or nine pm west coast U.S., and if you're online at the rollover you can use the new set of turns straight from wherever you are without getting auto-booted back to your homestead, so like a half hour or so before the rollover is the best time to play. Links Out:
- Exodus 3000
- Exodus 3000 Wikia
* Swagbucks (Browser) Swagbucks is one of those activity-based marketing sites with a virtual currency (SwagBucks, or SB) that can be exchanged for a variety of gift cards to big-name retailers. It used to have a wide range of Popcap-style games you could play, during which random SBs would sometimes be awarded to you. As of 2016 that system has been greatly pared down. Most of the games on Swagbucks are now gambling-oriented and are actually hosted by another site that you have to buy virtual chips in with actual money. You do get some SB for buying chips through the site, but no free SB just for playing. The free SB for gaming is now limited to 10 SB per day, usually doled out in parcels of 2 SB randomly at the end of each gaming session. The three games you can do this with are all inferior clones of some other popular game -- Swag Memory (Concentration), Swag Jump (Doodle Jump) and Swagasaurus Run (Dino Run). 10 SB is really nothing to get excited about (to give a sense of scale, you need at least 400 SB to get a $5 gift card), but even still it is finicky to get it. You need the latest version of Flash, and if you run NoScript or an ad blocker you have to manually approve all the ads they are trying to serve during the game, or you might not get credited. There is other stuff to do on Swagbucks that earns SB, of course. You can answer surveys, authorize advertisers to bomb your inbox with spam, watch video ads, and there are one or two daily "swag codes" posted on their social media channels that you have a window of a few hours to enter for like five or 10 SB (which are tracked for you on a few different sites like sbcodez.com). The main benefit of the site comes if you don't mind them knowing what you're buying online, though. Swagbucks is tied in to pretty much every major retailer, hotel chain, hotel discount booking site, airline or e-commerce site in the United States. Buy or book pretty much anything online and you can get 2 to 8 SB per dollar spent. For example, Hotwire is offering 8 SB per dollar, so if you booked a hotel of $50 a night you'd be getting back almost enough for a $5 gift card each night you stay. Amazon, eBay and every retail giant you can think of are in there too, as well as direct orders of computers from manufacturers like Lenovo and Dell. So if you don't mind the privacy invasion, there's that. As far actually playing games for profit goes, as of right now that's pretty much DOA. Our In-House Resources:
* Steam Items (Steam Client)
You can "sell" stuff that you get as random drops from playing various eligible games on Steam. There are three major categories of items:
Steam Trading Cards
Skins / In-Game Items
Crates / Loot Boxes
Here's the thing, though; there's no way to directly extract cash value from these things, as if Valve allowed that then they would become a financial services company under the law and would have to be regulated like one. You simply get e-bucks in your Steam Wallet, which you can use to buy Steam's various games / software / music / movies.
However, because of the wonders of third-party access to the Steam API
, there are several (unregulated and inherently risky) ways to turn virtual Steam goods into real cash. We're not endorsing any of these sites, just noting their existence as examples of what is possible.
Sites where you can sell items and skins directly for cash (ex: Skins.cash
"Skins betting" sites that let you deposit and gamble with skins, some allow real money withdrawals (see: this Reddit thread
Build up a "burner" Steam account to sell in its entirety (facilitated by a number of sites like G2G
OK, now before you go running off full tilt into these methods, here are some very important safety items to note:
Valve frowns upon these shenanigans and many violate the Steam Terms of Service, which can mean an account ban (and sudden loss of all your value)
They are all totally unregulated and if someone rips you off, you're probably ass out with no recourse
As far as gambling goes, most developed country governments that ban it will go after financial services companies that enable it rather than individual bettors. HOWEVA
. There are some more backwards/totalitarian countries where they may like cane the shit out of you or something for breaking online gambling laws. So know what you're getting into there.
How about relative item value? Well, to give you an idea:
Trading cards - Most are worth literal pennies. Even rare cards usually aren't worth more than $1 USD each. In fact, there are about 10 trading cards that go for over $1,700 USD, and then everything else in the whole market is lucky to get over $2 USD at best. If you're curious as to what the 10 cards are that go for big bucks, basically for all of them there is either just one or none currently on the market and they are from a game that was either removed or will never drop another one of those cards.
Skins / items - These have a similar min/max value to trading cards, but there is a much larger middle ground of varying value. The most expensive items are one-of-a-kinds that approach $2000, the cheapest are worth two or three cents. But there are quite a few items for the popular games (like Dota 2 and CS:GO) that are worth in the tens or hundreds of dollars and are realistically attainable.
Crates / keys - Value is surprisingly poor on these - they're usually worth around $2.50 at best