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Nike buys virtual sneaker maker RTFKT for undisclosed sum to make wearable NFTs in the metaverse

Nike is entering the crypto kicks market with its acquisition of virtual sneaker maker RTKFT so it can make digital shoes in the metaverse. 

Nike, Inc. did not disclose the purchase amount, but RTFKT’s reputation as a sought-after brand that fetches premium prices, with some virtual sneakers selling for up to $10,000 a pair, suggests the deal could be lucrative.

‘RTFKT is now a part of the NIKE, Inc. family,’ RTKFT – pronounced ‘artifact’ – tweeted Monday.  

According to Nike chief executive John Donahoe, the acquisition is to advance the company’s ‘digital transformation.’

‘We’re acquiring a very talented team of creators with an authentic and connected brand,’ Donahoe said in a statement. ‘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.’

During a March collaboration with 18-year-old crypto artist Fewocious – real name Victor Langlois – RTFKT sold 621 pairs of shoes, netting about $3.1 million. 

The highly sought digital kicks – which cost between $3,000 and $10,000 – sold out in seven minutes, according to the Wall Street Journal. Physical versions of the shoes were selling online for upward of $12,500 as of Tuesday. 

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Nike is entering the crypto kicks market with its acquisition of virtual sneaker maker RTKFT, which announced the deal Monday on Twitter

Nike acquired virtual sneaker maker RTKFT for an undisclosed sum. The company's crypto kicks sell for thousands, and do the physical reiterations of the designs. A collaboration with teenage virtual designer Fewocious is selling for $12,500 on the resale market (above)

Nike acquired virtual sneaker maker RTKFT for an undisclosed sum. The company’s crypto kicks sell for thousands, and do the physical reiterations of the designs. A collaboration with teenage virtual designer Fewocious is selling for $12,500 on the resale market (above)

Nike chief executive John Donahoe

An NFT is a unique digital token encrypted with an artist’s signature that verifies its ownership and authenticity. 

RTFKT’s colorful kicks were sold as NFTs, unique digital assets that gives buyers ownership of an item using blockchain technology.

The hefty price tags might seem especially astounding when you consider that they aren’t tangible objects; they can only be sported in virtual reality or on social media.

Other brands have already begun transitioning into the alternate reality space, and Nike joins other fashion behemoths – including Gucci, Burberry and Adidas – in entering the non-fungible token (NFT) space. 

Dolce and Gabbana announced in September that it sold its first nine-piece NFT collection for $5.7 million. (The package included some tangible couture items.)

Buyers can collect or trade their NFTs, or even flip them for profit.

In the case of RTFKT, digital shoes, which are paid for with Ethereum cryptocurrency, can also be worn in the metaverse or on social media. 

Avatar holding Nike shoe

Avatar holding RTFKT shoe

Avatars are seen holding virtual sneakers following the announcement of the Nike and RTFKT deal

RTFKT's collaboration with 18-year-old Fewocious (pictured) was a major success. Its limited collection sold out in seven minutes, netting $3.1 million

RTFKT’s collaboration with 18-year-old Fewocious (pictured) was a major success. Its limited collection sold out in seven minutes, netting $3.1 million

RTFKT has established a strong foothold in the metaworld since founding in 2000; in March it collaborated with Atari to create a limited-edition series. It’s not clear how much it netted on that collection. 

The growing NFT trend has also caught the interest of Adidas, which said in a December 2 tweet that it was wading into the metaverse through a collaboration with the Bored Ape Yacht Club and others.

RTFKT was founded by friends Benoit Pagotto, Chris Le and Steven Vasilev, in January 2020.  

Pagotto said the Nike acquisition was a ‘unique opportunity’ to build the brand. 

‘We are excited to benefit from Nike’s foundational strength and expertise to build the communities we love,’ he said in a statement. 

‘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.’

NFTs can represent ownership of digital assets, including images, video, music, trading cards, cryptocurrency wallet names and even land within online virtual worlds.

Prior high-profile digital assets to hit the market as NFTs include Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s first tweet, which fetched $2.9 million in March, as well as the classic viral video ‘Charlie bit my finger’ which brought in $761,000 in May of this year.

Pictured: Avatars are seen wearing RTFKT in an advertisement to promote metaverse clothing

Pictured: Avatars are seen wearing RTFKT in an advertisement to promote metaverse clothing

The shoes can be worn in virtual reality, collected, traded or resold

The shoes can be worn in virtual reality, collected, traded or resold

RTFKT in March collaborated with Atari to create a limited-edition series. It's not clear how much it netted on that collection

RTFKT in March collaborated with Atari to create a limited-edition series. It’s not clear how much it netted on that collection

And the crypto-art craze shows no signs of abating, as a British art collective plans to launch a collection of NFTs purporting to grant ownership of the stars. 

The Ten Thousand Suns project, created by the Adequate Content collective, says it will issue 9,096 NFTs which correspond to every star visible with the naked eye from Earth later this month.

The whimsical project seems to have piqued the interest of Warren Buffett’s estranged granddaughter, the artist Nicole Buffett, who joined the group’s online chat server on Discord.

‘The absurd in art is a concept that is always kind of linked,’ said one of the creators in an interview with DailyMail.com. ‘That seems the point of art, to reach for the sublime.’  

An example of one of the digital stars available in the NFT offering is seen above

An example of one of the digital stars available in the NFT offering is seen above

News of Nike’s RTFKT acquisition sparked excitement online, particularly for those interested in augmented reality (AR).

‘Pretty rad (shockingly good!) example of #AR and no doubt exciting peek into fashion’s powerful entrance into the metaverse,’ @klausheesch tweeted.

‘Kudos to #RTFKT for the visionary leap and to Nike for embracing a fashion-forward digital future.’

Added @shila_ray: ‘Nike buying RTFKT is very interesting. Goes without saying that similar deals will follow suit specially in high end fashion.’

Not everyone’s a fan of the strange new world we’re living in.

‘Am I just too old or does ‘virtual sneakers’ sound like the most ridiculous thing ever,’ tweeted @SteveUmstead. 

Many augmented reality fans expressed excitement over the deal on Twitter (above), although not everyone's a fan of the virtual sneakers

Many augmented reality fans expressed excitement over the deal on Twitter (above), although not everyone’s a fan of the virtual sneakers

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