After extending its brand from the physical world to the virtual world of Roblox in November, the company revealed Friday that it’s now bringing the digital Nikeland experience to its New York City store on Fifth Avenue.
The Kids — 1F floor of Nike NYC, House of Innovation — has been “transformed into an augmented reality version of Nikeland,” according to the company. The space features visual elements decked out in the theme, while AR features through Snapchat Lenses offer avatars and games. The experience runs through January.
The details sound akin to a virtual or augmented reality version of an amusement park or Dave & Buster’s, but on a smaller scale and set inside a Nike store. The company said its goal is to inspire people to move around or dance.
In one area, visitors can see themselves in the Nikeland Roblox environment on a large display, with an onsite camera set up to scan bodies. The system changes the heads on the avatars into balls from different sports, and up to four people at once can try it out with varied options of “Roblox Basketball,” “Grass Soccer ball,” “Nike headband basketball” and “Fuzzy blue tennis ball with Black NSW lockup.”
Elsewhere, guests can start a game of Pachinko Obby Ball by scanning a Snapcode. An AR layer changes the shoe wall into a Roblox-like basketball pachinko board, and people drop virtual basketballs on their phone screens to play. In another AR-enabled game, the floor becomes a lava field, complete with its own volcano, and players must navigate their way through it — just like the “Floor Is Lava” game inside Nikeland in Roblox.
Crafting a virtual experience based on its branding and headquarters in the real world, then channeling this metaverse back into a physical location seems like a grand bit of self-referential logic. But it’s not the first time for Nike. The brand has been straddling digital and physical worlds for years, with tech like AR applied to everything from sneaker fitting to simply making running more fun. In November, when it introduced Nikeland on Roblox, the company announced plans then to offer a similar Snapchat AR Lens experience at the House of Innovation the following month.
Of course, there’s more context for projects like this now. Nikeland debuted on Roblox in between two company milestones — a November trademark filing to protect its name and branding in virtual worlds, and its acquisition announcement of Rtfkt in December. The start-up grabbed the fashion industry’s attention in March 2021, when its NFT collection of digital sneakers drew more than $3 million in mere minutes.
That casts recent efforts as more than just gimmicks. For the company, it’s serious business, and apparently, it can break down the walls between real and virtual worlds. This isn’t a bad thing in retail. In fact, it’s another form of omnichannel business, one that recognizes newer technologies and tools bring new opportunities. For instance, here’s one fascinating thought from the new activation: Did Nike just figure out how to make the concept of body scanning less creepy and more appealing for consumers?