In case, like us, this year made you want to exit reality completely, the Metaverse is here to save you. And, if you wanted some virtual drip whilst doing so, Nike’s got you covered. In a major move announced last night, Nike is set to acquire RTFKT – a leading virtual fashion platform that specialises in creating virtual sneakers.
Joining the roster which only currently includes two other major brands (Jordans and Converse), the acquisition of RTFKT is huge, and indicative of Nike’s belief and investment in the Metaverse. Founded less than 2 years ago, the brand has quickly come to dominate the virtual sneaker space, taking inspiration from Nike’s own strategies by developing a cult following and fanbase through well-curated collaborations and limited drops.
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RTFKT capitalised on the NFT boom that began earlier this year, releasing several virtual sneaker designs in collaboration with the artist Fewocious in February, and quickly making more than US$3 million by selling 600 pairs. In March, it partnered with Atari on a virtual sneaker, and in November, partnered with the artist Takashi Murakami on an NFT auction which put 20,000 3D avatars up for sale.
Still with us? It’s unclear what the terms of the deal will be for now, but Nike said that their “plan is to invest in the RTFKT brand, serve and grow their innovative and creative community and extend Nike’s digital footprint and capabilities,” in a statement.
So why should you care? Well, this move from the sportswear giant signals the start of a wider social shift into virtual spaces. In essence – this is about to affect us even if we don’t care about virtual sneakers. The move to acquire a standalone company, for comparison, has only been done once before by Nike, who bought Converse in 2003. This means it’s super important, and indicates that Nike will be investing a lot of money into virtual endeavours in the future.
And, as such a huge company, this will have knock-on effects: other brands will be taking note, and trying to dip their own toes into the ever-expanding pool of the Metaverse. Which means we’re about to see a lot more virtual reality, goods and landscapes as consumers. With so much money being pumped into the digital realm, this will also impact on real-world consumer behaviour: with the price of Nike Air Force 1 sneakers almost doubling in the last decade, why would you not buy a virtual pair for a significantly reduced price?
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With money spent comes the time spent: people paying for metaverse-exclusive drip are going to be spending a lot more time online, to show it off. It remains to be seen as to what impact this will have on physical sales, but with the pandemic already accelerating the death of the high street, we’re not convinced it’ll be good news.
The stats agree: according to the BoF, 50% US consumers are interested in purchasing some kind of digital asset in the next 12 months, and analysts predict the currently negligible market for luxury NFTs could grow to more than €20 billion (US$22.6 billion) by 2030. We can see the merit in this prediction already through gaming, with many gamers already buying ‘skins’ that allow them to change the appearance of their avatar in the game world.
So, in all, it seems that we’re entering the Metaverse whether we like it or not – with big brands like Nike leading the way. Are you in?