Nike lets people design and sells sneakers for the metaverse. The Iconic Brand’s latest project is a metaverse game called Swoosh, a web-enabled platform where people can buy virtual goods. It’s a marketplace, which makes sense because the breathlessly hyped internet of the future is very similar to today’s internet: commerce dominates. Swoosh exists in the domain “Nike” and will be an experimental digital space for registered members. It is currently in beta, and participation registration begins on November 18th. Initially, the platform will focus on building communities and providing “challenges” to members to get a picture of what they want to see.
The brand’s first virtual collection, consisting of footwear, apparel, and accessories, will appear on Swoosh in January 2023 and be shaped through interactive voting activities. Members can then collect and exchange these products times; The platform uses cash (USD), not a cryptocurrency, although all transactions are recorded in a string of polygons. Virtual branded apparel is nothing new. Still, Nike has announced that next year the Swoosh Community Challenges will be expanded to include competitions where members can win a chance to design virtual Nike products with designers from the brand and earn a percentage of royalties. But before you aspiring sneaker designers get too excited, here are the details on how this maker economy will work: The selection process, how to design collaborations will happen, what percentage of the revenue people will get, and what framework laws will be put in place to make sure co-designers get paid are all extremely vague.
While there will be no avatars at launch, the brand’s goal is that virtual products launched on the Swoosh can be used on and off the platform. “I can imagine avatars on RTFKT being able to use our wearable devices, as well as avatars in games you already play,” says Ron Faris, vice president and general manager of Nike Virtual Studios, the part of the brand founded in early 2022 on which one should focus in the virtual sphere. Of course, the studio NFT RTFKT (pronounced “artifact”) was bought by Nike in December 2021, so the transfer of “co-designed” virtual clothing to this platform is not surprising. Additionally, there are no specific details on the Swoosh elements’ interoperability with other platforms or metaverses. Still, Faris says the plan is to “work where our wearables start and be more usable in more experiences or games you visit” to get into You Find Play. In other words, wait and see. Meta’s recent announcement that her avatars will have legs seems like an ideal opportunity for virtual sneakers.
Nike already has a metaverse area on Roblox called Nikeland, where users can purchase and use virtual items without using cash or cryptocurrency, instead using in-game currency. Launched in November 2021, the brand’s virtual world has seen more than 26 million visitors, according to Roblox. Once again, Faris doesn’t seem to know how the Swoosh will interact with Nikeland. “We haven’t seen exactly what this looks like,” he says. By introducing the Swoosh, Nike may create a virtual world without relying on other platforms. Nikeland could be included in the Swoosh, but Interop must be the focus for that to happen. For the same reason, MSquared, the division of Improbable that builds Metaverse for third parties, requires clients to have all their virtual spaces interoperable.
Certainly, the attraction to Web3 is strong. The last thing brands want is to be left behind. “We serve the market of the future by meeting consumers where they play or shop,” says Faris. Although Nike acquired RTFKT last year and made $3.1 million selling 600 pairs of NFT “Cryptokicks” sneakers in April 2022, it is shelving the currently ailing NFTs for the Swoosh launch. “We call these “Virtual Nike Creations” because we believe they will have a broader impact on than NFTs,” says Faris.
The NFT bubble may have burst, at least for now, but it’s unclear if the broader virtual goods market will be just as volatile. Perhaps to get around this, Nike is planning to add services and utilities to its virtual products. “When we look at a virtual shoe, we don’t just see the shoe,” says Faris. Secret chat room with our designers who help to develop together. We learn that buying a virtual product is not the end of the buying process but the beginning.
Nike is betting not only on the future of virtual goods but on successfully selling them in its own new world rather than on the well-established and heavily trafficked platforms of Roblox and others. Industry analyst Benedict Evans believes such a move carries significant risks, even from a brand like Nike. “The market for virtual products that exist outside of specific use cases like Roblox or Fortnite is still extremely experimental,” he says. Faris seems aware of this uncertainty at “We’re going to test and test and learn a lot of different things,” he says.
“We’re trying to evaluate [people’s] behavior.” This could be expensive market research, or it could help explore retail in the Web3 age. Faris believes that society and technology are at a tipping point. “This world we are in now is like the internet before the browser was invented.” Nike fans will have to wait until next year for the first collaboratively created virtual sneakers, and Web3’s development is still unclear, but it’s certainly another opportunity for companies looking to commercialize products. What was initially touted as a decentralized utopia is increasingly looking like a continuation of the status quo, with only brands taking even more responsibility if you include the Swoosh?
When it comes to the future of the internet, the revolution will be monetized. Get your virtual kicks now.