After making a name for himself on YouTube by giving away lumps of cash to his friends, family, and unsuspecting strangers around the country, Jimmy “MrBeast” Donaldson is opening his latest game to anyone.
Donaldson has partnered with internet collective MSCHF for “Finger on the App,” a one-time multiplayer game with a very simple premise: the last person to take their finger off their phone screen wins up to $25,000. The twist is that “Finger on the App” has a fluctuating prize pool. Other players decide the final cash prize amount, meaning the prize can be anywhere from $1 to $25,000. The game kicks off on June 30th at 3PM ET.
Finger on the App can handle “millions of concurrent players,” Donaldson told The Verge, and that comes with some concerns. Donaldson, his team, and MSCHF were especially interested in “making sure someone couldn’t just duct tape their hand to the phone,” so they require you to occasionally move your finger in specific ways, he said. With millions of players signing up to try to win money, Donaldson knows that much of it is out of his control, but it’s that chaotic element that he’s most excited by.
“I think the beauty of the game is that we don’t really have control,” Donaldson said. “It’s really up to the people playing and seeing who lasts the longest, and I think our main thing was just keeping the game fair.”
“I think the beauty of the game is that we don’t really have control.”
Other creators have found success in posing as YouTube philanthropists — people who give out houses, cars, MacBooks, iPhones, and, of course, cash — but Donaldson’s the guy who led the trend. After producing gaming content for years and not finding any mainstream success, he made a video in 2017 all about donating $10,000 to a homeless man. Donaldson had received the money as part of a brand deal and decided to give it away.
His channel skyrocketed under the new format. Donaldson gave his mom $100,000, bought a house for his best friend, opened pop-up shops where visitors could buy expensive electronics for cheap, and bought car shoppers a vehicle of their choice after taking over a dealership, practically giving away every car.
Donaldson turned brand deals into a form of philanthropy and grew his channel in the process. Some videos didn’t have any form of a giveaway but found him in outlandish scenarios like “surviving 24 hours in the Bermuda Triangle.” It seemed like every video was designed to go viral, and other YouTubers quickly copied his ideas to build their own channels. In 2019, nearly every one of Donaldson’s videos landed more than 1 million views. In less than one year, he more than doubled his YouTube subscribers.
“I want to be the biggest channel on YouTube and to continue making content my fans love.”
“We’ve only been making these [big giveaway] videos for the last few years and I think there’s still a lot of things we haven’t done,” Donaldson said. “When we film videos like this it’s usually just finding random people on the street. We also really work on initiating and continuing to raise the bar, and I think that’s why people continue to come back to my channel.”
That helps explain his partnership with MSCHF. Right now, it’s a one-time deal, but Donaldson isn’t ruling out anything in the future. MSCHF built a name for itself through its elaborate online installations, including a “pirate streaming service,” a re-creation of The Office in a live Slack chat room, and an app that lets people pick stocks based on their astrological signs. Recently, MSCHF partnered with A-list Hollywood names including rapper Future and NBA athletes. “Finger on the App” is the next “drop” for the company.
“In this connected world a million beeps and chimes compete for our attention, a deluge of contacts and content,” a manifesto for the game reads. “As our attention spans flee, ‘Finger On The App’ demands utmost devotion to a total absence of distraction: a game where you can’t do anything.”
Donaldson is excited to see the drop with MSCHF play out, and he’s not ruling out another collaboration with the collective in the future. But his focus remains on his YouTube channel, where he has even bigger ambitions for himself and his team. Whatever future projects he decides to take on away from YouTube, one thing remains certain: he’s not leaving the platform anytime soon.
“I grew up watching YouTube and I started making content at a really young age,” Donaldson said. “It’s really something I enjoy doing. I’m not looking to go off the platform anytime soon. I want to be the biggest channel on YouTube and to continue making content my fans love.”