Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat, it’s time to put some money in Electronic Arts’ hat. FIFA 22 is rocking on PC as disappointing as ever. The main new gimmick, HyperMotion Technology, is only on ‘next-gen’ consoles—and may not even be called FIFA the next time around—but one element remains: FIFA Ultimate Team, and how EA monetizes the thing. , the ongoing conversation about this .
Are FUT cards a gateway to gambling? Do FUT players really gamble when they play (after all you can ‘cash out’, via shady third-party vendors)? Isn’t it a little odd that these things feel aimed at young children? Or there is another point of view: FUT is a fun football experience, it is several degrees away from gambling, and it is their choice if people want to spend money on packets of virtual footballers.
Needless to say, the debate can get quite heated.
EA’s Chris Bruzzo, who holds the position of Chief Experience Officer, Spoke to Eurogamer About some of the issues surrounding FUT, and dropped some figures in the process to give you an idea of the scale here. Clearly Bruzzo emphasizes that 9/10 FUT packs are opened by FUT Coins (earned in-game currency), and 78% of the total playerbase does not spend any money on the game beyond the initial purchase. He says “30 million people played [FUT] Last year, and 100 million in some form or another – in mobile games and all over the world.”
EA also made changes to FUT packs in response to the growing regulatory concern around loot boxes: FIFA 22 includes card packs as well as FIFA Playtime possibilities that allow individuals (and parents) to impose their own bans. will allow.
However, this leads to perhaps the most serious issue around the FUT. It is incredibly popular among young audiences. Bruzzo EA can say things like “really want to be treated” [players] like perfect human beings who can make good decisions in their lives” But the whole ‘choice’ argument breaks down when we come to the question of children. The EA line, of course, is…
“Kids shouldn’t spend on our sport. Kids shouldn’t spend on FIFA,” bruzzo says. “[…] When we look at account signups, we see a very small percentage of accounts from people under the age of 18. But more importantly, our default is no expense for accounts under the age of 18. And we work with Sony and we work with Microsoft as well. Institute spending controls for children as default. Kids shouldn’t be spending FIFA Full Stop.”
The EA can certainly say this, and there is no doubt that it is honest. But ask any parent who has a football-obsessed child or teenager and it’s clearly not the case. I don’t offer this as proof of anything, but I have two teenage sons who talk to me about FUT spending, and the behavior it has encouraged, and there is no shortage of stories on the internet that Little Johnny is naughty with credit cards. The point is, whether or not kids should spend at FIFA isn’t really worth saying when some of them do.
This itself highlights an absurdity of our current regulatory system, that FIFA 22, for example, can receive a 3+ rating in the UK—that is, it is an entertainment product that is suitable for all ages. Yet with that rating it is allowed to include systems that, by the developer’s own admission, should not be used by children. EA has also advertised FUT in children’s magazines. “It was a mistake,” bruzzo says, “They added FIFA Ultimate Team to this toy list. And we have apologised. We said it was a mistake. We make mistakes.”
EA’s playbook for FUT and regulation is emphasizing player choice, and the fact that the research is not conclusive. The latter is true: There is no smoking gun yet about a causal link between loot boxes and problem gambling, although most studies find a modest-but-significant correlative link between the behaviors. This area needs more research and higher quality studies (something that would be improved by greater industry collaboration from companies like EA).
What this interview shows is that the EA is going to hold the FUT in its current form for as long as possible, for the simple reason that it is extremely profitable. Things like packet odds and playtime limits are welcome improvements from one point of view, but from another mere exemption is to hold off regulation for as long as possible. It’s true what they say about football nowadays: all about the money.