MrBeast Riddle Aftermath: Beast Reveals Cost, Goal & Story of His Puzzle

Jimmy "MrBeast" Donaldson took the internet by storm last week with what the charitable YouTuber originally touted as "the world's hardest riddle." But in true MrBeast fashion, taking the effort to solve the 26-step virtual scavenger hunt wouldn't be without a substantial reward. A prize of $100,000 was announced as a bounty for a single winner, sending the web at large into a frenzy to crack one of the most creative and brain-busting puzzles the web has seen to date.

But while victory would be earned for one person only, the riddle quickly took on a collaborative tone, as millions of participants around the world worked to scan QR codes, study Shakespeare and reach level 100 on a difficult Flappy Bird clone. With so many hunters working together, the task that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and many months of work was finished in just eight hours. But would a hastily reached solution disappoint the Team Trees co-founder?

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Jimmy “MrBeast” Donaldson attempted to stump the internet last week with "the world's toughest riddle." He spoke with Newsweek to discuss the story, cost and goals of his ambitious puzzle. MrBeast/Night Media

With time to reflect on his viral event, Newsweek caught up with MrBeast via email to discuss how his riddle was created, his favorite step in the process and what he hopes to accomplish when his next devious mission is dispatched to his legion of 40 million virtual subscribers.

Note: This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

What was your central inspiration for the riddle?

I got the inspiration from a Cicada riddle I found on YouTube. I knew we could go bigger!

$100,000 is a lot of money to offer for a short-term internet bounty such as this. What was the purpose of offering such a big prize? Do you think the response would've been as big if the winnings were smaller?

We've done a lot of videos where we give away money, and we wanted to keep people engaged regardless of how difficult it was. We thought a prize of 100k would do it. I also don't think it would've gotten the attention had it been less.

How does one even start something like this? What was the creative process like? Did it involve a lot of external partners, or was your traditional YouTube crew responsible for the whole thing?

We took inspiration from a few other videos we saw and started developing our own concept. All in all, it took about two months to get all the pieces in place. We found a production company to help us out and keep everything legal.

You started on Twitter that the riddle cost around $250,000 to make. Is that number truly accurate?

That number is definitely accurate.

Who came up with the concepts for the puzzles? What was the main methodology for doing so?

We had an internal team brainstorm to come up with concepts and then picked the ones we liked the best.

Was there any apprehension before the riddle went live that parts of it might not work? Did you have any contingencies in place if a step was broken?

Not really. We were confident in the production company we hired, and we had also tested it numerous times. But we did have a few backup plans if anything went wrong just in case.

What were you doing while the riddle was live? Were you glued to Discord and reddit the whole time, or was it just a matter of waiting to see that final video get viewed?

I was on Twitter keeping up with people's progress. It seemed like every time someone solved a step they would post it to my tweet announcing the riddle.

Perhaps the most devious step of the puzzle was the page full of QR codes. Can you speak a little bit about creating that step in particular?

I wanted to create a time consuming puzzle that didn't involve problem solving, just stuff that was very tedious mixed into the other steps. The QR code was definitely the step that would make people stop wanting to keep going.

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A step featuring hundreds of QR codes was solved in minutes with a user-created script. MrBeast/Night Media

Did you anticipate that someone would create a script to solve this step, or did you truly expect that fans might spend days at a time sifting through QR codes?

I was hoping fans would spend days on that step, but I'm not surprised someone created a script for it.

Aside from the QR codes, what was your favorite step of the riddle?

Shakespeare or the Carl game

The Apex Legends brand deal was an interesting wrinkle in this concept. Did your people pitch EA on the idea? What was their reaction?

EA has worked with us on other projects, including the YouTube Battle Royale, and we've been conceptualizing other ways to work together that don't just involve a single post. When we pitched them the concept, they loved it and also provided a lot of thoughts on ways to integrate them into the challenge. We had a few other ideas, but weren't able to execute within the timeframe.

Was the COVID-19 pandemic at all a factor in you deciding to run this contest? It seemed like the perfect kind of logic puzzle for folks stuck at home.

Of course. We've been trying to keep everyone entertained while they're inside, and this was another project to keep everyone's minds busy. Obviously, we thought it was going to last longer, but I'm glad people had fun with it.

Is there any disappointment on your behalf that this riddle was solved in just eight hours?

It's definitely not disappointment, more shock that it was solved in under 12 hours. Ultimately, we did this because we knew fans would enjoy it and it would also take their mind off everything else going on in the world.

What was the single most challenging part of designing this riddle?

The hardest part was getting started. I think that's always one of the hardest parts. Once you start flowing it becomes easier, but that first step of designing the riddle was the most difficult.

Since you've already confirmed to us that you'll likely do another one, what's the first lesson you're going to take from this experience when you design the sequel?

Maybe encouraging people to play with their friends or allowing steps that take multiple people to complete. If people are going to work together, we might as well lean into it.

What's been the single most rewarding part of the riddle design process?

The most rewarding part was seeing my team have fun designing it.

For those who'd like to solve MrBeast's Riddle for themselves, its steps are still live to enjoy. You won't get the $1000,000 prize for finishing it, but you can start by watching the video here.

MrBeast Riddle Aftermath: Beast Reveals Cost, Goal & Story of His Puzzle