Welcome back to Chain Reaction, where we dissect and break down the most recent cryptocurrency news, drama, and trends for the crypto-curious.
This week, James Zhang, a 24-year veteran of the video game industry who has worked as an artist, a founder, and an investor, was the subject of our Tuesday episode.
Zhang began his career as a concept artist at LucasArts, the company that created the Star Wars video games, and is now the founder and CEO of NFT art consultant Concept Art House.
According to Zhang, over 1,000 games have been shipped since Concept Art House was founded 14 years ago with the goal of providing art to video game businesses. But in 2021, when Zhang continued to spot opportunities at that precise juncture, the business narrowed its attention to just service customers creating web3 video games.
“Over the last two years, we have had a total pivot into web3, and there’s kind of no looking back,” Zhang said.
According to Zhang, Concept Art House has worked with both creative brands aiming to establish a presence through web3 video gaming and crypto-native businesses with little background in either gaming or the creation of art. The business has collaborated on projects with NBA Top Shot inventor Frank Miller and NFT titan Dapper Labs, the latter of which is best known for writing and drawing “The Dark Knight Returns.” In October of last year, it raised $25 million from investors including Animoca Brands and angel investors like Jeff ‘Jiho’ Zirlin, the developer of Axie Infinity.
However, despite Concept’s early successes in web3, the recent crypto bear market has hit NFTs particularly hard, making its work considerably more challenging. Zhang claimed that the crypto winter had three main effects on his company: first, that people are now more selective about the NFTs they purchase as a result of low token prices; second, that venture funding must now last longer; and third, that new token launches are no longer a significant driver of growth in the NFT space.
These days, one of Zhang’s primary areas of interest is assisting artists in web3 in monetizing their talents.
“We want to create a really powerful artists’ network that can credential and identify who an artist is and what they’ve worked on in web2 and web3. So instead of creating one [piece of] IP, we want to create a platform that’s really friendly for artists in web3,” Zhang said.
Seneca, who created the image for the Bored Ape Yacht Club project, and other artists have spoken out against the lack of a lucrative form of payment for the artists behind NFTs.
According to Zhang, who acknowledges the pros and cons of the situation, artists are generally “underpaid, and they’re paid what they’re now worth” in terms of market value. He believes that artists have some control over how they are paid and sees web3 as a tool that can aid them in that endeavor.
“The artists who are more financially savvy, who understand community, have more power. They need less agents, less middlemen. That’s kind of the promise of blockchain,” Zhang said.
“I think in the future, you will see this fork for most professional artists — do you want to try to understand finances more, your role in it, your role in the community, your role in technology and contribute as a highly skilled artist? Or do you want to just paint and draw really well?”