Mechanical keyboards are enjoying their highest point in popularity now since they are more affordable than ever with each year bringing in new designs and models for enthusiasts. Speaking of enthusiasm for keyboards, there’s a particular market for people who want more premium-looking, feeling, and sounding boards, and that would be the mechanical keyboard group buy events.
It’s a word that is being thrown around a lot and if you’re waist-deep into the hobby, you’ve probably come across some beautiful mechanical keyboard models whose official websites are always out of stock or are nowhere to be found. Those are most likely made only available through a mechanical keyboard group buy. We’re here to help you advance to that more complex part of the mechanical keyboard hobby.
What Exactly Is a Mechanical Keyboard Group Buy?
A simple answer is that it’s a limited pre-order process for mechanical keyboards. Buyers will pay for a product before it’s manufactured or produced based on the promise that the seller will produce and ship it after several months.
Certain mechanical keyboard designs such as those featuring PCB boards with cuts for bouncy typing (which can help with productivity) or those with aluminum cases are possible through smaller manufacturers and their independent ideas. Some designs apparently are not available for mass production.
A mechanical keyboard group buy process is divided into these phases:
- Survey or interest check through Discord or other social media.
- Advertising and group buy initiation (usually lasts a few weeks).
- Production and quality checking (usually lasts several months).
- Shipment and fulfillment.
A company that sells products through a mechanical keyboard group buy will post surveys to gauge interest and then manufacture a sample batch of the keyboard design. This will then give potential buyers an idea of what the keyboard sounds and looks like.
Along with demo videos and images of the final product, the company or brand will then put up the limited group buy event which usually runs for a couple of weeks. In this short window, anyone interested can pre-order the mechanical keyboard and once the group buy window is over, the company will then start fulfilling those orders.
Fulfillment of a group buy order takes place over the course of several months (in the past, some even lasted more than a year). This will involve the company putting up a manufacturing request in their off-shore factories in mainland China (usually), then quality control checking, and then shipment once the batches are ready.
Typically, a mechanical keyboard brand will also promise an order fulfillment in a specific timeframe with the most common rate right now being six months on average after the group buy window or event ends. This timeframe, however, is subject to delays.
There have been instances when too many people pre-ordered or participated in a mechanical keyboard group buy and the manufacturer was left with a lot of orders than they initially anticipated.
Such circumstances can and have led to delays in fulfillment duration.
What About Buyer Protection?
This is the tricky part of a mechanical keyboard group buy.
Buyer protection sometimes depends on the integrity and honesty of the brand or the company. In certain locales or regions, mechanical keyboard group buy events are handled by third-party vendors who will mediate between the brand and the customers and certain ones handle the refunds or return process in case something goes wrong with the group buy.
Not all of them guarantee this kind of buyer protection, by the way).
Since payment is online and customers will have to pay first before the brand manufactures the product, there’s a risk involved here for both parties– more so for the customers.
What if It’s a Scam?
The good news is that the mechanical keyboard community is now bigger than ever and there are a lot of vigilant samaritans out there who will readily call out scams. Some of these samaritans are even influencers on YouTube or other social media.
However, in the past, when the hobby wasn’t as popular, there have been group buy events that were actually scams. The buyers ended up receiving nothing and the “company” that initiated the group buy event ran away with all their money.
Some companies could also cancel their group buy events and product launches with the refund process turning into a worrying slog.
Nowadays, this doesn’t happen often– if at all. You’ll still have to perform your due diligence in researching the company or small vendor that’s offering up a product via group buy events. It’s better if they have a history of successful products sold and fulfilled through group buy events.
If you want to be safe, these companies are tried and tested in the mechanical keyboard community and their reputations for fulfilling group buy events are stellar; to name a few of them:
- Qwertykeys (sister company of Owlabs)
- Wuque Studio
- Meletrix (sister company of Wuque Studio)
- My Key Club
There are more, but those companies have the least chance of failing you if you join their group buy event.
The Point of a Group Buy Event
Why can’t these companies just create or mass produce the keyboards they want to sell instead of resorting to group buy events? The answer is that they’re usually small businesses and don’t have the infrastructure to support mass production on the same scale as brands like Keychron or Glorious.
Hence, a mechanical keyboard group buy allows these smaller companies and businesses to still sell their products despite the lack of huge funding. Because essentially, customers will provide that investment first, they’re the investors.
Group buy events also rely on the FOMO (fear of missing out) element since a lot of the products they offer are highly limited and there’s no guarantee that they might release it again. The keyboard models in mechanical keyboard group buy events are often sold in limited quantities due to the usual two-week pre-order timeframe and the higher cost (compared to ready-made keyboards).
So you can expect the product you receive at a group buy event to be rare and at times, highly sought-after. You can even treat them as collector investments that you can sell later for a higher price since there’s no other way to obtain them.
Keyboards From Group Buy Events Are Unique & Have Higher Quality
Because of the limited nature of the group buy process and the smaller pool of customers or buyers, companies that sell keyboards through group buy events can focus on quality. Most of the time, these are not mass-produced products and they have a unique mold and unique engineering.
Moreover, since there are fewer customers, they’re given more extensive customization options such as different variations of keyboard chassis or case colors and different keyboard plate configurations for a more unique sound signature. Here are a few examples of how keyboards from group buy events sound like:
How Are They Different From In-Stock Keyboards From Bigger Brands?
Bigger mechanical keyboard brands such as those from Logitech, and the aforementioned Keychron and Glorious all have mass-produced products that you can’t really customize to the same degree.
Glorious’ most popular mechanical keyboard, the GMMK Pro, for example, has a metal plate by default, meaning you’re stuck with a metallic sound signature and a harsh typing experience.
Keychron, however, is more popular for enthusiasts for allowing a deeper degree of customization but they too have limited options especially if you want to customize the keyboard’s sound or the typing feel. Of course, you’ll also have to contend with the fact that your keyboard isn’t so special or too personalized since most people will have them.
Still, there are a few big companies that have in-stock mechanical keyboards whose models are at the same level of craftsmanship as those being sold in group buy events.
However, those are sold at the same price as keyboards being sold in group buy events, and the stocks are often painfully limited so you’re at the mercy of their manufacturing whims.
How to Join a Mechanical Keyboard Group Buy?
Still, if you don’t mind waiting several months to have a unique keyboard, then you can always consider or keep track of the ongoing and upcoming mechanical group buy events.
You will have to check up on some of the most popular mechanical keyboard influencers in order to see which mechanical keyboard group buy events are available or ongoing right now. We recommend someone these guys when tracking group buy events as they’re quite meticulous when it comes to mechanical keyboards; they usually announce new group buy events: