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EA Sports faces another legal battle over FIFA Ultimate Team
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EA Sports faces another legal battle over FIFA Ultimate Team

Should FIFA Ultimate Team be classed as gambling? Well, a recent lawsuit launched against game publishers, Electronic Arts, is arguing just that.

What is FIFA Ultimate Team?

FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT) allows players to assemble of a dream team of players from leagues around the world. Players are acquired in packs, in a series of weekly rewards, which are awarded by completing in-game challenges, like Squad Building Challenges (SBCs) and online matches. Whilst this may seem like an extremely engaging tool to encourage regular participation, packs of players can also be purchased.

EA Sports’ FIFA 20 Ultimate Team.EA Sports’ FIFA 20 Ultimate Team.

So where is the controversy?

It is not uncommon for FIFA players to spend large amounts of money on player packs, resulting in FUT being one of FIFA’s leading revenue streams. In EA’s financial report for 2019, the game mode recorded a net revenue of $1.38bn, accounting for 28% of the total revenue share. Already this year, FUT’s net revenue in H1 has been $716m, which is up 40% from last year’s figure of $509m! To compare, EA’s product net revenue was $568m, which was primarily driven by sales of FIFA 20, Madden NFL 20, and The Sims 4, showing just how lucrative FIFA’s Ultimate Team mode is for the company.

You can read EA’s full sales figures where this data was taken from here.

Every FIFA players’ dream: a FUT Icon walkout!Every FIFA players’ dream: a FUT Icon walkout!

Despite the millions of players contributing to these astronomical figures, large sum investments from players do not necessarily guarantee they will receive the best players. Already, we have seen countries like Belgium and the Netherlands ban this game mode, citing that loot boxes are a form of gambling, and are therefore unethical when we consider FIFA’s young player base. And now, in the latest wave of controversy for the game developers, a Parisian lawyer has taken EA Sports to court, claiming:

"My client spent €600 in five months without ever getting a big player. The developers of this game mode have created an illusionary and particularly addictive system […] The more you pay, the more you have the possibility of getting big players […] We believe that a gambling game has been integrated into this video game because buying packs is nothing more than a bet. It is the logic of a casino that has entered their homes.”

The FIFA player that has filed a suit against the publishers states that despite spending substantial money on player packs, his highest-rated player he received was 85-rated. With no parental controls on the game mode, it is easy for the game’s younger players to spend money with no real understanding of the repercussions for doing so. In an attempt to reduce criticism, EA stopped selling FIFA Coins from last year’s franchise, but it is evident that more must be done.

Impact on mental health

There is no denying that the idea of loot boxes lead to unhealthy addictive tendencies in gamers, and this is particularly pertinent to the FIFA franchise. You’ll only have to take a look at Twitter, and Reddit users that constantly vent their frustrations towards FUT!

What’s more, considering the game mode serves as the title’s official esport, questions arise over whether the game fosters a pay-to-win culture that ultimately marginalises casual competitors. We must therefore ask, would competitive FIFA as an esport thrive under a different game mode; one that relies on actual skill as opposed to the current model?

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