Nike Inks Deal With RTFKT, a Metaverse Shoe Company
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Nike Inks Deal With RTFKT, a Metaverse Shoe Company

In a bid to bolster its position in the future digital world, Nike has acquired virtual sneakers and collectibles creator RTFKT.
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Sportswear giant Nike has doubled down on its metaverse bet with the acquisition of RTFKT — a virtual sneakers and collectibles creator. Notably, the move comes at a time when major companies are pushing deeper into the metaverse, hypothetically the next iteration of the internet.

Nike Buys “Metaverse-Ready Sneakers and Collectibles” Creator RTFKT

Nike announced Monday that it has acquired RTFKT, a virtual sportswear startup that leverages the power of blockchain technology to create NFTs and digital sneakers that can be used and worn in the metaverse. The apparel giant did not disclose the terms of the deal. 

John Donahoe, President and CEO of NIKE, commented on the acquisition, saying:

“This acquisition is another step that accelerates Nike’s digital transformation and allows us to serve athletes and creators at the intersection of sport, creativity, gaming and culture. We’re acquiring a very talented team of creators with an authentic and connected brand. Our plan is to invest in the RTFKT brand, serve and grow their innovative and creative community and extend Nike’s digital footprint and capabilities.”  

Meanwhile, the acquisition is yet another indication that Nike is accelerating its transformation to the digital era. Just last month, the footwear giant unveiled Nikeland, a 3D virtual space where fans can “connect, create, share experiences, and compete.” The virtual world also features a digital showroom, where users can outfit their special avatars with virtual Nike products.

In fact, Nike’s interest in blockchain dates back to 2019, when the company started exploring blockchain technology to tokenize the ownership of exclusive shoes. According to a patent dated December 2019, those exclusive shoes will become linked to a unique owner when purchased and will be recorded on the Ethereum blockchain. It said:

“When a consumer buys a genuine pair of shoes a digital representation of a show may be generated, linked with the consumer, and assigned a cryptographic token, where the digital shoe and cryptographic token collectively represent a ‘CryptoKick.’”

What is RTFKT Studios?

Founded in early 2020, RTFKT received attention this year as NFTs exploded in popularity. Among its main products, the virtual shoe company creates collectible exclusives, digital sneakers, memes, avatar NFTs, and other “Metaverse-ready” stuff that can be owned across virtual worlds.

RTFKT has inked several notable partnerships. For one, the startup partnered with the artist Fewocious in March to launch three virtual sneaker designs priced at $3,000, $5,000, and $10,000, respectively. The sale was a major success as 621 pairs were sold within a seven-minute period, bringing a total of $3.1 million to the company.

Further, RTFKT has partnered with LarvaLabs, creators of the popular NFT collection CryptoPunk, to release 10,000 sneakers NFTs, one for each Punk. More recently, the startup onboarded Takashi Murakami, a prolific artist, to work on a series of 20,000 avatar collectibles.

The company has also announced a partnership with Atari, an electronic game company, to release a limited Atari-themed fashion NFT series. As part of the collaboration, RTFKT designed a “one-of-a-kind Atari Sneaker” which will be available for use across numerous multiplayer blockchain games, including Decentraland, The Sandbox, and the upcoming Atari Metaverse.

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Major Companies Are Dabbling in Metaverse Tech

Nike’s partnership with an NFT platform is part of a bigger trend that major tech companies, luxury, and even food and beverage brands are seeking to bolster their place in the emerging metaverse. 

Facebook, AKA Meta, was the first tech giant to express serious intentions with regard to the metaverse. As covered by The Tokenist, the giant social media platform announced in late September that it has dedicated a $50 million fund to developing the metaverse, adding that it expects the metaverse to arrive in the next 15 years

Following in the footsteps of Meta, Microsoft entered the metaverse race by announcing Mesh, a mixed reality technology that will allow people in different physical locations to conduct meetings in the virtual world and appear as avatars. In a video, Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, said:

“The Metaverse enables us to embed computing into the real world and to embed the real world into computing. Bringing real presence to any digital space. What’s most important is that we are able to bring our humanity with us, and choose how we want to experience this world.”

This trend can also be seen among luxury brands. For instance, Gucci held a virtual fashion installation called ‘Gucci Garden Experience‘ earlier this year. At the virtual event, the Italian luxury fashion brand sold several digital items. 

Likewise, food and beverage brands have also been launching NFTs. Among the more notable examples, Budweiser has issued a series of 1,936 NFT collectibles, while Pepsi has celebrated its birthday by launching an NFT series that included 1,893 pieces of a microphone visual. 

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