The Rakuten NFT marketplace has opened for business.
NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are a way to assign unique identifiers to specific pieces of digital media using blockchain technology. In recent years, the tokens have gained prominence as a method of verifying the ownership of digital assets such as art, allowing digital artists to create and sell their works in much the same way as physical art.
Since February 25, Rakuten members in Japan have been able to sign up to buy and sell digital assets on Rakuten’s new NFT marketplace.
Intellectual Property (IP) holders can build their own websites on the platform to display and sell their assets, while traders can purchase and sell NFTs issued by IP holders.
“Combining the benefits of blockchain technology with the existing Rakuten Ecosystem offers huge potential for Rakuten as well as our members and partners.”Fergal Downey, Vice President of Engineering, Rakuten Blockchain Lab
The platform is fully integrated with Rakuten’s ecosystem, meaning existing Rakuten members can simply sign in with their Rakuten ID and start trading. Users are even able to earn and spend Rakuten Points on trades. With a star-studded launch lineup and plans for general user-issued tokens in the near future, it’s never been easier for Rakuten members across Japan to climb aboard the NFT train.
Kicking things off in style
Rakuten NFT has partnered with a number of major IP holders to kick-start the platform’s NFT library, covering everything from anime and music to the world of sports.
One significant partnership involves a classic Japanese superhero character: Ultraman. A number of CG assets from the perennially popular franchise are available for purchase through Rakuten NFT.
Other upcoming highlights include NFTs of rare footage from the archives of Japanese broadcaster TV Asahi, trading cards from visual kei rock idol group Under Beasty, and select cultural NFTs from clothing brand Beams.
Rakuten is also leveraging its extensive partnership with Japan’s premier soccer league the J.League, for whom Rakuten Ichiba is the official e-commerce partner. Plans are in the works to develop and issue NFTs for the J.League NFT Collection Players Anthem.
Fergal Downey, Vice President of Engineering at Rakuten Blockchain Lab, commented, “Over the last five years, Rakuten Blockchain Lab has invested in creating the building blocks to enable the launch of innovative new services such as Rakuten NFT. Combining the benefits of blockchain technology with the existing Rakuten Ecosystem offers huge potential for Rakuten as well as our members and partners.”
Powering Japan’s artists
In the days leading up to launch, Rakuten NFT revealed an extensive partnership with art curation unit Art Powers Japan, a team of artists, art critics and professors with a stated mission to support Japan’s artists.
The unit is hoping to leverage the power of NFTs to solve a significant challenge faced by many creators of unconventional art — namely, that artwork lacking a convenient, physical form can be difficult to make a living from through traditional channels. Performance art, installation art and media art are some examples of artworks which, despite their artistic nature, don’t enjoy the ease of trade of something like a framed painting.
The group is already planning to issue NFTs of certain “experiences,” using VR and video to capture artistic moments such as a Japanese tea ceremony or ikebana flower arranging.
Rakuten NFT could well prove the perfect platform for the group to take on their global ambitions. At launch, the platform will host the Rakuten NFT Art Gallery, featuring a range of digital artwork from notable creators, including the artist behind the graphics of breakthrough singer Ado. The gallery is expected to commence sales in mid-2022 or later.
Just the beginning
The service is far from Rakuten’s first blockchain rodeo: The Rakuten Blockchain Lab has been exploring blockchain applications in e-commerce and fintech since 2016, while Rakuten Wallet started providing spot trading services in Japan for crypto assets in 2019.
But Rakuten NFT could well be Rakuten’s most ambitious blockchain project yet. With its stated goal of making NFTs simple enough for anyone to try, the platform aims to close the gap between crypto enthusiasts and the general public.