Nike Inc. is planting an early flag on the virtual territory of the still-evolving ‘metaverse’ with a new purchase.
The global athletic brand is acquiring RTKFT, a company that leverages game engines, NFTs, blockchain authentication, and augmented reality (AR) to create unique virtual products and experiences, including collectibles. With this acquisition, Nike is taking another toward the completely integrated omnichannel “metaverse” that Meta (formerly Facebook) recently announced it is attempting to develop.
In November 2021, Nike launched a proprietary virtual world called “Nikeland” on the popular Roblox digital gaming platform. Virtual buildings and fields inside Nikeland are based on the company’s real-life Beaverton, Ore., headquarters, and hold detailed arenas where Roblox players compete in various mini-games.
At launch, consumers can participate in virtual games such as tag, the floor is lava, and dodgeball with their friends. With the Nikeland tool kit, users can design their own mini-games from interactive sports materials. In addition, the Nikeland virtual experience is enhanced by real-life movement.
In addition, a digital showroom enables customers to outfit their Nikeland avatar with special Nike virtual products, and customers can earn in-game rewards for participating in virtual games and activities.
And in December 2021, Nike will offer its Nikeland Roblox virtual experience at its digitally enabled New York House of Innovation store with a special Snapchat lens. The lens allows people visiting the kids’ floor of the store to see the space transformed into an augmented reality version of Nikeland, including avatars, games, and Nikeland-inspired Easter eggs to find.
Leveraging RKFT technology and capabilities, Nike will be able to continue developing solutions and even storefronts in the metaverse. The company is also gaining a foothold in the burgeoning non-fungible token (NFT) industry. NFTs are unique digital assets stored on a blockchain ledger which certifies the owner. There is no way for an NFT to have more than one owner, and only the certified owner can sell it.
Retailers including DKNY and Domino’s have participated in the collectible NFT marketplace, and e-commerce platforms including eBay and Shopify allow the purchase and sale of verified NFTs.
[Read more: Three reasons retailers find NFTs nifty]
“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,” said John Donahoe, president and CEO of Nike Inc. “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.”
“This is a unique opportunity to build the RTFKT brand and we are excited to benefit from Nike’s foundational strength and expertise to build the communities we love,” said Benoit Pagotto, RTFKT co-founder. “Nike is the only brand in the world that shares the deep passion we all have for innovation, creativity and community, and we’re excited to grow our brand which was fully formed in the metaverse.”
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.