With the coronavirus pandemic causing record job losses in the real world, a report has highlighted the lucrative virtual roles that people could turn to in order to earn a living going forward.
To date, more than 4.7 million people have contracted Covid-19 worldwide, with 315,389 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The global public health crisis has wreaked havoc on the "real" economy.
Confinement measures to slow the spread of the virus have forced the shuttering of non-essential businesses, leading to job losses and pay cuts.
The world is now trying to get to grips with the so-called "new normal." For many, this includes finding ways to earn a living from home through online roles.
The virtual economy is now worth over $100 billion a year, employing hundreds of thousands of people in online jobs, according to L'Atelier, a foresight company that's an independent subsidiary of the BNP Paribas Group.
John Egan, CEO of L'Atelier, said that the virtual economy is "an opportunity for almost anyone to augment or replace their real-world income through a relatively shock-resistant economic system."
L'Atelier compiled a list of the most common virtual jobs, working with a digital ethnographer — someone who conducts market research about the online world — to identify and categorize these roles. It also interviewed people working in these roles, as well as looking at existing data and research on the virtual economy.
"The virtual economy is the newest example of many technologies converging to facilitate the emergence of a new labor market," the report said.
"Young people, unable or unwilling to access the upper echelons of traditional careers, are finding ways to earn income and build a reputation through novel activities unique to virtual spaces. From builders to entertainers, athletes to investors, a whole new spectrum of labor is emerging, virtually."
L'Atelier estimated there are around 100,000 income-earning esports players worldwide, who play video games at a professional or semi-professional level in tournaments. Tournament winnings and sponsorships are among the ways they earn an income, with some taking home as much as $3 million annually.
Influencers are a well-established part of the online economy, with an estimated 800,000 of them across the globe, and remain one of the more highly paid virtual roles. They create content, mainly on social media, building a personal brand around their own lifestyle. Influencers make money from their partnerships with brands, who use them to market products or services.
Often retired professional players themselves, esports coaches can continue to earn a living by imparting their knowledge to the next generation of esports players. They can earn up to $140,000 a year for advising and organizing team training sessions, as well as taking a cut of any prize money.
There are only currently around 800 people who manage sponsorships and brand partnerships in the world of esports. They both try to sell sponsorship to brands indirectly related to the industry, as well as securing brand partnerships for events, teams and leagues.
Similar to influencers, lifestyle vloggers create on-demand or livestreamed video content focused on their day-to-day life, also earning money from partnerships and ad revenues.
Creating digital assets for virtual worlds, such as furniture for the virtual reality platform Decentraland, can earn you up to $122,000 a year. There are around 40,000 people working in this role, earning money through direct sales of their creations and commission.
There are around 40,000 people currently developing games for digital distribution on independent marketplaces. This includes games that are crowdfunded on platforms like Kickstarter or Patreon, and are not picked up by a major studio or publisher.
Streaming yourself online playing a video game can bring in as much as $100,000 a year in income. "Streamers" use dedicated platforms such as Twitch, earning money from platform partnerships, viewer subscriptions and ads.
Support staff in gaming, who deal with in-game issues and monitor the in-game world, can take home as much as $96,000 a year. They can use moderation tools such as "player detention" and inventory editing.
Talent managers and agencies are becoming more common among top-tier influencers and streamers, according to L'Atelier. Like partnership managers, they look after the brand and sponsor relationship for influencers. It is typically a salaried role.
Curating, managing and organizing online content for a community, organization, website or platform can earn at least $40,000 a year.
Around 400,000 people work as community managers. They help build and manage a brand's online communities on various platforms. This might include responding to users on Twitter on behalf of a brand.
With more events going online due to the pandemic, so too are their organizers. Managing, planning and executing events both online and offline can earn up to $75,000.
There are just 500 people who work as commentators for esports matches, earning money from contracts and direct donations from fans or supporters.
Content creators contract people in this role to curate and edit video content for an online channel, on platforms including Twitch, Mixer, Facebook and YouTube.
Designers of "skins" create graphics or audio to change the appearance of characters in video games. They get paid per skin and can earn as much as $60,000 for every creation.
This role involves building modifications for an existing video game, including changes to questlines, maps, characters and skins.
In online gaming, users can collect items such as clothing, weapons, furniture and currency, which have different values depending on how useful and rare they are. A "farmer" collects these items in-game, making an income by selling them on to other users for real money.