In October, Nike filed trademark applications as part of its preparations to sell virtual sneakers and apparel, according to CNBC. Now, the footwear and sports apparel giant has acquired a startup called RTFKT (pronounced “artifact”) that will help the company accelerate its “digital transformation.” RTFKT was founded in early 2020 and has since made a name for itself designing and creating what it calls “Metaverse-ready sneakers and collectibles” — all digital goods people pay very real money for.
The market for virtual goods is booming, and it’s expected to continue growing as we move towards the metaverse, the future vision for the internet wherein people can interact in a virtual world with digital avatars. To that end, Nike seems to have big plans for RTFKT and its team, which will be joining the company. John Donahoe, Nike’s President and CEO, said: “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.” On Twitter, the startup said that it “will continue to evolve [its] brand, innovations, products and community with Nike resources and talents.”
Earlier this year, RTFKT teamed up with 18-year-old artist Fewocious to release three NFT sneakers for $3,000, $5,000 and $10,000. Within just seven minutes, over 600 people purchased their own virtual pairs for a total of US$3.1 million. More recently, the startup introduced its avatar-like project called CloneX, a joint effort with Japanese artist Takashi Murakami. RTFKT calls CloneX its “most ambitious project yet,” as it marks the beginning of an ecosystem for its Metaverse-ready avatars.