Nike has just announced the acquisition of RTFKT, a start-up specialized in the creation of virtual sneakers in the form of non-fungible tokens (NFTs). Mirroring its rival Adidas, the American brand invests in the metaverse to seduce consumers.
Nike buys RTFKT, an NFTs studio specialized in sneakers
Nike has just taken another step into the metaverse. In a statement released this Monday, December 13, 2021, the American giant announced the purchase of the start-up RTFKT (pronounced “artifact”). Founded in 2020, this studio specializes in the creation of virtual sneakers in the form of non-fungible tokens (NFTs). By acquiring RTFKT, Nike is looking to design sneakers and apparel that will be tailored for the metaverse.
“This acquisition is another step that accelerates Nike’s digital transformation and allows us to serve athletes and creators at the intersection of sports, creativity, video games and culture. We are acquiring a team of very talented designers with an authentic and connected brand. Our plan is to invest in the RTFKT brand, serve and grow their innovative and creative community, and expand Nike’s digital footprint and capabilities,” said John Donahoe, current CEO of Nike.
Developed by three partners, the startup made its name by creating virtual sneakers and goodies. To develop its original creations, the firm relies on technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence and virtual and augmented reality. To come up with the designs for its works, the firm calls on a large community of designers and creators.
“This is a unique opportunity to build the RTFKT brand and we are thrilled to have the core strength and expertise of Nike to build the communities we love,” said Benoit Pagotto, co-founder of RTFKT.
“When we started, we had fun designing sneakers inspired by video games,” says Chris Le, co-founder of RTFKT, on his Twitter account.
Last February, RTFKT notably partnered with street artist Fewocious to design unique sneakers in the form of NFTs. The 608 digital pairs sold out in minutes for $3.1 million. Buyers also received a physical pair as a gift.
“For many years, RTFKT was an undefined collective, working exclusively in the shadows, providing designs and concepts to gaming companies and a few select fashion brands. In 2020, they formed an entity to expand their services,”RTFKT’s website reads.
More recently, RTFKT has also partnered with Takashi Murakami, a Japanese artist who is considered one of the most valued visual artists in the world. The Japanese artist created 20,000 3D avatars for sale as NFTs. The sale generated $80 million. The start-up receives a commission ranging from 2.5% to 10% on the sale of each digital work.
Thanks to these latest successes, RTFKT says it will have generated more than $100 million in revenue by 2021. A few months earlier, the start-up was valued at only 33 million after a fundraising led by Andressen Horowitz, a major American venture capital fund. In its statement, Nike refrains from revealing the amount of the transaction.
Nike follows Adidas’ lead and joins the metaverse
Note that this isn’t Nike’s first foray into virtual worlds. In November, the sports equipment maker opened Nikeland, a virtual space dedicated to the brand, in collaboration with Roblox, a free-to-play video game that has more than 200 million monthly active users. The buildings in this world are inspired by Nike’s headquarters. In this virtual world, users can participate in mini-games.
By confirming its interest in the metaverse, Nike is following Adidas’ lead. A few days ago, the rival clothing brand entered the digital worlds by partnering with Bored Ape Yacht Club, Gmoney NFT and PUNKS Comic. Together with its partners, Adidas wants to create a game focused on the metaverse. Earlier, the German brand had already approached cryptocurrency giants like Coinbase and The Sandbox.