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E-sports

PUBG streamer Thinnd goes from zero to 50k fans and US$20,000 in donations – now he wants to help others to do the same

  • Michael McMahon started streaming at the start of 2018 as a dare
  • He now has a weekly reach of more than 1 million and streams 8-16 hours a day
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 November, 2018, 9:40am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 November, 2018, 10:38am

American-Taiwanese Michael McMahon started streaming online only as a dare. He knew little about putting on a show online and stumbled his way through for the first few weeks playing popular internet game PUBG (PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds).

After a while, he started to get the hang of it. Now, 11 months into his challenge, McMahon is good enough to break through the 50,000 mark in Facebook followers. He has also collected more than US$20,000 in donations and has picked up sponsors.

The 26-year-old’s next goal is to become a mentor for others who want to show off their e-sports skills online and earn a side income.

“It was actually kind of crazy how it started,” said McMahon, who goes by the handle “Thinnd”. “I got myself an Xbox and started playing games and then took out a loan to buy a gaming PC.

“Someone dared me to stream every day for a whole year and this year, I started doing it. I never did PC gaming before, I didn’t know what streaming was and had to learn from scratch with no help,” said McMahon, who worked in Taipei for two years in a SmartCity start-up.

“And it kind of took off from there. It’s an amazing community and it has really grown. It turned from a hobby to something you can do full-time.”

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McMahon, who was born in Portland, Oregon to an American father and Taiwanese mother, said he would live-stream himself playing PUBG on Facebook from anywhere between eight to 16 hours a day.

He is among several dozen PUBG players from around the world who show off their skills, gaining fans online and earning an income, though he still relies on consultancy work to make a living, in which he acts as a problem solver for big companies involved in mergers and acquisitions.

During live streams, strategically placed cameras allow followers to keep track of the game on the main screen with smaller feeds of McMahon and his keyboard.

At the start of November, McMahon hit 50,000 followers, well past his target of 30,000, on Facebook with a reach of more than 1 million a week.

He has been accepting donations since March, which he invests straight back into his streaming enterprise. He admitted that there have been nervous times when donations nearly dried up.

“It was very difficult during the summer months,” said McMahon, who also uses donation money to rent a small flat in Seattle, Washington from where he streams. “People were travelling and the main donors had stopped being regulars. I basically didn’t have any income for a whole month and it got a bit scary.”

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Recently, McMahon acquired sponsorship from China headphone maker 1More, which also backs Taiwanese singing star Jay Chou.

After graduating in Pennsylvania with a degree in business marketing, McMahon, bored of his advertising job in the United States, headed to his mother’s native land where he worked for a start-up that helped design SmartCity applications that prevented commuters and tourists from getting lost while using the metro subway systems in multiple global cities.

He learned the importance of developing a community and the concept was hammered home even further when he started streaming.

“A community has to be involved and they have to believe in you,” said McMahon. “I didn’t fully realise that until I did it by myself through Facebook gaming and it just exploded. Facebook has that clout whereas Amazon is more focused on e-commerce and B2B.”

McMahon’s approach to his community is different to other PUBG streamers who have taken the gaming world by storm such as “Shroud” and “Dr Disrespect”. While he doesn’t consider himself in their league in terms of sheer followers or length of gaming, McMahon is more interested in enriching his community and helping others setting up their own mini Facebook universes through their gaming skills.

Shroud, who hasn’t streamed PUBG recently, interacts with viewers who donate US$50+ during his live streams whereas Thinnd is happy to interact with all of his fans while playing.

When asked to rank himself in the world, McMahon puts himself in the top 500 – proven by his current in-game rankings. He has also beaten professional players in open lobbies.

“I’m a decent player but I’m not a pro yet,” said McMahon. “When I started playing I had no clue what I was doing, was green behind the ears. But by playing 8-16 hours a day, you do get good.

“Many of my followers said that they prefer to watch me than Shroud, so that felt pretty good. They said they enjoy watching because I would greet my followers personally and say, ‘Hello’. And when people have a question, I try my absolute best to answer.

“I get the community involved and maybe can steer them in the right direction. They kind of get hooked because of the information and entertainment approach. One guy even said he cancelled Netflix and cable because he’d rather give the money to me to do something incredible with it.

“If anybody wants to do streaming, I’m more than happy to help them stream properly. I love to help others make a successful venture out of this. For donors, I go into their Facebook page and thank them personally, send them a T-shirt. I’m not making that much money but it’s a long-term investment.”

McMahon says he has followers from all over the world, including Chile, South Korea, Russia, Philippines, India, Pakistan, and many more.

Once he fulfils his one-year challenge at the end of December, McMahon is hoping to help gaming enthusiasts follow their dreams, saying young people who want to stream must treat their venture as a start-up.

“I would like to get into e-commerce and help others make money on this,” he said. “Quite frankly, I would love to help every single player on the planet stream.

“People go to college, get out of college and then work in retail or in a cubicle and maybe two per cent work in a start-up. You have zero identity. What streaming allows is to have that front-facing presence, putting your soul out in front of how many people.

“The more people who do that, the more that can stand out.”

McMahon also has the option of pursuing a potential career as an e-sports tournament impresario, having just received approval to start his own Facebook gaming competitions that offer prize money. To check out his live-streams and how Facebook is looking to make their mark in e-sports, check out Facebook.com/thinnd and fb.gg.