Black Friday and Kickstarter Creators

26 November 2014 | 13 Comments

photo 3For a few years now as a small-business owner and Kickstarter creator, I’ve struggled with the idea of Black Friday (and Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday–I lump them all into the “spirit” of Black Friday).

Before I talk about this, I should admit that I have a personal bias against the idea of Black Friday. I don’t go shopping that day, and there’s something about it that seems to bring out the worst in people. People fighting over buying more stuff? It just doesn’t make sense to me.

However, like it or not, Black Friday weekend is a time when a lot of people go shopping–in person and online–and many businesses offer discounts during that time to lure customers (with the exception of the Cards Against Humanity team, which raised their prices last year on Black Friday and somehow saw sales go up).

So the puzzle for me since I started Stonemaier Games in August 2012 has been: How do I compromise my distaste for Black Friday with the need for my business to sell stuff?

Compounding this question is the fact that my business–like the businesses of many readers–is largely grounded in Kickstarter, where we offer the best deals on our products. It wouldn’t be right to my backers if I offered the same (or better) deals on Black Friday. In fact, for pre-orders, it doesn’t even feel right to offer a better deal on Black Friday than what I’ve offered to customers who pre-ordered before that–they should be rewarded for pre-ordering early.

Because of these concerns, I simply haven’t done anything on Black Friday the last 2 years. Personally this felt fine, but in terms of my business, I felt like it was a lost opportunity.

tokens on boxHowever, some fortuitous timing has led to my answer this year. I won’t go into the specifics, but basically, Rodney Smith at Watch It Played just happened to post his video for our Treasure Chest a few days ago. I had previously told Rodney that we would donate $5 to a charity of his choice for every copy of the Treasure Chest pre-ordered during the week the video was released (pre-order link here).

So when the video came out on Sunday, I was elated. It aligned perfectly with Black Friday, and instead of offering a special discount, we were doing something good with the money (Rodney selected a local children’s hospital in the area). The deal honors customers who choose to pre-order the chest this week without disrespecting any previous pre-order customers or backers.

Also, as of yesterday (and continuing through January 10), we’ve decided to accept pre-orders for the second printing of Euphoria, but with a special twist: I will sign all pre-order copies of Euphoria. Also, as you can see on Euphoria’s pre-order page, you can also pre-order a signed copy that includes a premium Game Trayz insert and organizer (this is the benefit of having my company, Game Trayz, and our distribution broker all located in the same city).


I didn’t mean for this post to get all self-promotional–rather, the heart of it is about finding a way to do something for this Black Friday sales week that both feels right and is good for business. If you’ve thought about this topic for your business, I’d love to hear in the comments what you decided to do.

Also, way more important than Black Friday is the true focus of this week, Thanksgiving. I just wanted to say that I’m incredibly thankful to have you as a reader of this blog. I cherish the conversations and ideas that sprout from those conversations, and honestly, I wouldn’t have a Kickstarter book deal without you! So thank you so much, and I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving.

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13 Comments on “Black Friday and Kickstarter Creators

  1. As much as I love shopping online Black Friday, BF has been diluted to the point where Amazon and some brick-and-mortar stores start their sale long before BF. Even OLGS start their BF the day *before* Thanksgiving. And, of course, it’s easier nowadays, especially with KS, to find the deep discounts that were originally part of BF.

    I don’t think KS campaigns should even bother competing against BF. When the OLGS will ship you six different discounted games in a week, when a KS will take six months to a year, the hobby money goes to the OLGS first. And, as a case example, look at Stones Dungeon Tiles. During BF, they introduced add-ons at a discount. While SDT’s BF sale increased its funding, most of this funding was from existing customers, and the KS lost money after the BF sale. Then, the week *after* the BF sale was over, they gained 28 backers (currently at 97) and made about as much money as the BF weekend. To me, I don’t see anything definitive that the BF sale helped funding. If BF helped a KS project, then those 28 backers would have joined during the BF sale (BF and the next day), not the week after.

    The “KS Best Practices” FB group conventional wisdom is to not start a KS late in the year, during the holiday season. After looking at what remains of my wallet, I thoroughly agree with them!

    1. C: Thanks for sharing that example about a project trying to use Black Friday! I didn’t have any examples like that for the post–I was talking about post-project pre-orders. But I think that’s good insight for other creators, that trying to run a Kickstarter during that prime shopping period probably isn’t a good idea.

  2. “I don’t go shopping that day, and there’s something about it that seems to bring out the worst in people. People fighting over buying more stuff? It just doesn’t make sense to me.”

    Consequence of limited quantity, both in terms of time (today only) and literal quantity making it a competition as well as a rush, flash sale, and poor crowd control, basically. It’s not to do with the specific people, but the situation that they’re putting themselves into (And stores are creating an opportunity for them to be put into)

    …So imagine my distaste at the fact that large stores in the UK are starting to import the damn thing (Particularly US owned ones, e.g. Asda (Owned by Walmart), though it’s starting to spread beyond those (Game, for example, is owned by OpCapita and has started doing them)).

    1. That’s true–and don’t get me wrong, I completely understand the effect of scarcity and urgency on people’s behavior. I guess I’m just a little bewildered by the near-riot level of behavior that happens. It doesn’t happen everywhere, though, and hopefully it was pretty rare this year in the US, UK, and beyond.

  3. Jamey, the day after Thanksgiving is my day to relax and enjoy my family. In fact, I avoid any kind of mall shopping from Thanksgiving to New Years if possible. On the other hand, a six-member family on a single-income means my wife stays within our budget by going out on black Friday in hopes of getting good deals on household items and stocking-stuffers. It can be almost more of a necessity and practicality rather than a need for more possessions. I’m a backer of your Kickstarter Treasure Chest, and after watching Rodney Smith give his preview of the Treasure Chest and tell about your giving part of the proceeds to charity, I decided to purchase two more Treasure Chests and use them as great Christmas gifts. I appreciate you and your website and all of the great information offered about Kickstarter and the gaming world. -Mike (Cherrybowl).

    1. Mike: Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. That really put it in perspective for me, that Black Friday can be an important day for families on a budget. Thank you so much for putting your trust in Stonemaier Games by adding some Treasure Chests as gifts!

  4. Great way to stay positive and put your own spin on it, really helps continue the thought behind your brand. Oh and the tray is amazing!!!!!!!!! :)

  5. What a great idea Jamey!
    What an amazing video overview Rodney!

    Personally, I am not a great fan of charities which take money as most of it is consumed by the bureaucracy of running it. In result only the bare minimum, if any, goes to the cause. Still the intention & the spirit of the idea are all grand.

    The approach you took is perfect with the spirit of your company, or so I perceive it. This way you give something more to the customers while avoiding a backer (proudly myself included) to feel they could have waited & get it cheaper later.

    All the Best :)

    1. Konrad: That’s an interesting perspective about charities. My previous job was at a non-profit, and I was in that bureaucracy. I like to think that my position–which was paid for by donors–enabled the “feet on the ground” employees to do their work more effectively and make the the whole organization better at fulfilling its mission. I can say that all of the administrative staff was extremely aware of the generosity of the donors, and we worked for far less than our counterparts at larger (or for-profit) organizations.

      1. Jamey: Thank you for sharing your experience.
        I must say your ‘previous life’ sounds very interesting :)

        We are all aware this is a not quite dystopian world thus it’s better to be more euphoric about things :)

        I like the whole idea of charity, though I prefer to donate my items rather than money. This concept talk better to me, as someone then sells the items gets the money for the cause, the buyer gets a new item, you have more space in your life plus you helped the cause.
        Win-Win situation.

  6. Like you, I do not go shopping on Black Friday either. I prefer to spend the time with my family rather than fighting with aggressive crowds. I really like your unique take on the Black Friday sales option with it respecting earlier investors, yet giving an incentive to order the items this week. I especially like the charity option which helps us remember the concept of Thanksgiving, encouraging us to give to others.

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