This article was originaly published November 4th, 2018 and has been updated for 2019.
It’s the middle of November and already we are seeing retailers ready their stores for Black Friday. The mailers are out, the ads are being printed, and soon thousands of people will descend upon retailers across the country on the greatest holiday devoted to commerce the world has seen. As Black Friday is a convoluted and ever-twisting road of discounts and confusion you will need a guide to help you wade through the many circles of commerce to come out unharmed and with as much loot as possible. Those willing to brave the cold in the early morning or simply wanting to go online to take advantage of some spectacular game deals, this guide is for you!
1Do Your Research
The first task in any successful Black Friday shopping spree is research, research, research! Not only for what you want to purchase and where, but what you actually want to buy and at what price. Many people get caught up in the deals and sales and wonder why they bought certain items—don’t be that person. Make a list of what you actually want ahead of time, be as specific or as vague as you see fit, and then research and consider the price you are willing to purchase it at. For example, if you are looking at buying a PlayStation 4, and are willing to buy one at $200, stick to that limit. Remember, pricing will continue to drop and discount past Black Friday, and the important question isn’t “How good of a deal is this?” but rather “Is this price low enough that I am comfortable purchasing it?”
It’s a small but important detail that will aid in making sure you don’t suffer a major case of buyer’s remorse.
Tip – If you have trouble building a list in a meaningful way, I suggest picking your favorite big retailer (Amazon, Walmart, etc.) and using it as your master wish list. Not only will it make it easier to keep track of items in a place you already shop, but you will also be able to keep up to date on that retailer’s pricing and item specifications without doing the work yourself.
2Build a List
Once you know what you want and compile it into a list, next begins building the deal hunting to form your purchase list. After November 1st it might be a little confusing trying to figure out what is actually the Black Friday deal due to many retailers running “Early Black Friday” deals. While some of these might be the same as the ones offered on Black Friday, there usually are better deals to be found around Black Friday (if you are here, those are the ones you really want anyway 😉). To find the best offerings for Black Friday, generally, the breakdown across retailers is such:
- Brick and mortar retailers – Look for the traditional flyer ads. Most retailers will host their ads online, and this year more so than ever, have retailers made it even more confusing on what is a deal now and what is intended to be actually on Black Friday. If you have trouble separating the two, try to find their actual Black Friday ad that looks like a typical newspaper insert. If that fails, there are several websites devoted to scanning Black Friday ads. Of course, if that fails, there is always the option of buying your local newspaper the week of Black Friday to get all the ads physically.
- Online-only retailers – Look for emails. Most online-only retailers will offer some sort of preview of their Black Friday deals within a week of the big day, and if not, they will certainly will the day before/the morning of.
- Amazon – Look everywhere or build a wish list. The way Amazon shares its constant deals throughout the month is terribly inefficient due to the large volume of items and how it is displayed. While looking for games typically isn’t bad due to the lower volume of discounts compared to other categories, it still requires constant checking to see if an upcoming deal is scheduled for something you want. The easiest way to get around this is to simply build a wish list and have the Amazon app installed on your phone. As long as an item is on your wish list, should it be listed to go on sale or does go on sale, you will be notified via the app.
With all the information at hand, it’s now time to build your list with the items you intend to purchase at the place it will be cheapest. If you are particularly committed to purchasing a specific item, usually there is another retailer that has a slighter higher price that can serve as a good backup in case something goes out of stock.
Tip – I recommend making a bookmark folder full of all the future items you intend to purchase on Black Friday. This way when its time to buy, it’s just a click away for all your items to see if the price is updated.
3How/When to Buy
While you are more than welcome to go into stores to do your purchasing (especially if you are buying more than just games), take it from a longtime Black Friday shoppers who used to stand in line—buy online. Typically, big-ticket items are marked as “doorbusters,” essentially the items whose discounts are only available by going into the store or being first online. Rarely do games fall into this category, and when they do, it’s never for an amount to make the effort to go into a store and face the overwhelming crowds.
The exception to this rule is if you intend to buy a console; when it comes to 3DS’s, PlayStation 4’s, Nintendo Switches, and Xbox One’s, there is usually one or two stores that have better deals than their online counterparts” but also have far more limited stock. If you opt to go this route, be sure to have a backup plan just in case as these items typically go fast and the amount you save isn’t usually worth the headache.
If you have shopped online before, Black Friday isn’t much different. The biggest difference is understanding when you can shop to take advantage of the deals. Retailers generally have their deals activate at five different times:
- Thursday, 12:00am ET
- Thursday, 3:00am ET
- Thursday, 6:00pm ET
- Friday, 12:00am ET
- Friday, 3:00am ET
Each retailer is different, so it’s important to set an alarm for each of these times to check as some consider Thanksgiving Day or Black Friday starting at different times. Keep in mind, the discounted price may not show up immediately so be sure to give about 5-10 minutes of trying before committing to a later time. Using our tip earlier about making a bookmark folder of all the games you plan on purchasing can make this even easier by opening all your links within a bookmark folder with two clicks (right-click a bookmark folder and look for an option that says open all).
For Amazon specifically, they will feature Black Friday deals using their Lightning Deal system. If you look at the top of Amazon there should be a link leading you directly to all the upcoming and current discounts. It’s important to note that Amazon will not display upcoming deals further than 24 hours ahead but usually restricts this to 12 hours or less. This means if a deal is intended to be live at midnight, it most likely won’t be listed as upcoming until noon the day before. If you are just browsing, you can search specifically for video games or other categories, but if you know there are specific games that you want to catch on sale, the best bet is to add them to your wish list and make sure the Amazon app is on your phone to get notified when a deal is live featuring it. Bare in mind that this method will most likely not work when you are buying consoles, this is due to consoles usually having specific SKUs or bundles for Black Friday, meaning you won’t be able to add them to your list beforehand and get notified.
As for where to shop online, there are a few places I recommend; some obvious, others, a little less.
- Best Buy
- eBay (not great for specific item deals, but good for site-wide discounts)
- Gamefly (games are essentially new without the shrink wrap at pre-owned prices)
- Google Express (coupons are separate from retailer prices, allowing for even better deals on items if lucky)
- eStarland (not great for specific game deals, but good for site-wide discounts that can be useful for rare or retro games)
- Woot (won’t have much in terms of games, but whatever it might, it will be extremely cheap)
Tip- Be sure to be logged in automatically to where ever you may be buying and have your payment information already set. This way when the time comes, you can quickly check out without risking it going out of stock.
Black Friday shopping in-stores is a sight to behold and is perhaps one of the few times that people have actively fought others in a store over a discounted Vizio TV. While we don’t advocate violence, there is a certain level of aggression needed that is typically absent during other times of the year when shopping, so be prepared. You don’t need to hurt people (seriously, don’t hurt people), but you might need to nudge a few people out of the way to get where you need to—mainly—the electronics section. Depending on the specific store you go to, the section you need to reach will become blocked or otherwise inaccessible from easy access as the store in question has shifted aisles to contain the volume of people. If this is the case, barreling over isn’t the solution, just politely ask an employee and they will most likely make you a path (and be sure to be appreciative to employees, this is hell for them). Much the same as with online, in-store times vary depending on the retailer, but the general break down is as such:
- Thursday, whenever they open (which is just cruel)
- Thursday, 6pm (equally cruel)
- Friday, 12am
- Friday, 6am
- Friday, 8am
Stores previously had more varied times but typically, this is when most stores have their deals start. However, each store handles its Black Friday differently, so it doesn’t hurt to ask someone else who has gone before how a particular store functions. For example, previously in stores near me, there have been lines out the front, but the big-ticket items were given to first come first serve in the line before the store opened so they could come back and pick it up later. For this reason, it’s always important to research what store you plan on going to (and it’s location) to find the correct time.
Tip- Don’t be afraid to go several hours later when sales start. Unless you are looking at picking up a Doorbuster, more often than not, there is bound to be a few things leftover, especially when it comes to games.
Bonus Tip– Brick and mortar stores are far more likely to have items that have price errors. This can become especially common when a game is on multiple different consoles and only certain ones are discounted. To check your local Walmart or Target, use Brickseek.com and look up the item in question to see if it has also been discounted. If it has, head on over and pick it up for a reduced rate.
Hopefully, with all this Black Friday knowledge you will be ready to take to the stores (or internet) by storm and get all the games you want on the cheap. Even if you are not on planning to purchase any games this Black Friday, most of this can apply to any other Black Friday purchases out there; plan ahead and be as ready as possible to succeed.
For a list of what I personally recommend picking up on sale this year, check back next week!