EA has said it will work on “real solutions” for FIFA players who lose control of their spending.
But it failed to commit to fundamentally changing the way FIFA’s controversial Ultimate Team revenue generation works, even in the face of a potential change in UK law.
EA has in recent years come under pressure for Ultimate Teams loot boxes, which some UK organizations have said should be considered games.
Ultimate Team lets you acquire players of varying efficiency via virtual cards with cards, which can be purchased with a currency in the game obtained through gameplay or with real money. These loot boxes show package probabilities, but players never know exactly what they will receive.
EA earned 1.62 billion. Dollars from Ultimate Team in its final financial year – and most of it was from FIFA. Ultimate Team’s revenue represented 29 percent of EA’s total revenue in fiscal year 2021 ($ 5.6 billion).
Although Ultimate Team is one of the biggest money spinners in all of games, it is extremely controversial. It has been labeled as a game, not least by some governments, called pay-to-win, and has been slammed as exploitative.
In recent years, there have been a number of stories about players, some of whom are children, who have admitted to having spent too much time and money on the FIFA Ultimate Team. In April this year, new research “confirmed” a link between loot boxes and problem games, and found that a large number of children open loot boxes.
In a speech to Eurogamer as part of a comprehensive interview on EA’s stance on looting in its hugely popular FIFA series, Chief Experience Officer Chris Bruzzo pointed to a number of recent initiatives EA had implemented in FIFA, e.g. The Playtime dashboard and chance to view a loot box before buying, but said work still needed to be done.
“I think we need to talk about extremes,” he said.
“I think we need to work on real solutions for those players who are in the extreme situation where they have lost control of their time they spend. I agree.
“And again, we’ll take action. We’re not just talking. We’re taking action. We’re putting more information in front of the players. We’re raising awareness about parental controls. And we’re putting preview packages as you know. “We really are.”
When asked if EA would go so far as to consider removing the possibility of spending real money on FIFA’s loot boxes, Bruzzo said “this is a choice I should be allowed to make”, revealing eight out of ten FIFA players do not spend money at all.
In January 2019, EA announced plans to halt sales of FIFA points in Belgium following government pressure on loot boxes.
In April 2018, the Dutch Gaming Authority declared FIFA Ultimate Team’s loot boxes in violation of the Dutch Gaming and Gaming Act. On 15 October 2020, the City Court upheld the Hague’s decision in The Hague. EA appealed the district court’s ruling, and NGA’s decision is suspended through the appeal process.
In the UK, loot boxes for video games are not currently classified as games, but the government is investigating to see if the law should be applied to them. In December 2019, the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport launched a review of loot boxes along with a broader review of the Gambling Act 2005 and in June 2020 announced a public call for evidence. The government commissioned Abertay University to assess this evidence, and the hope is that a report will be issued before the end of this year. In that case, the government can act at some point in 2022.
Although EA maintains that Ultimate Team’s loot boxes do not constitute gambling, the company acknowledged in a recent regulatory financial document that a change in the law could significantly affect its business.
Bruzzo said EA will cooperate with the UK government if it comes down hard on theft cases.
“We are ready,” he said. “We are already at the table. We continue to bring actions all the time. We are coming with more. We are ready.”
But Bruzzo insisted that EA will continue to make money on Ultimate Team in much the same way it does now.
“I do not see that changing,” he said. “I think the players are clearly responding to the fun they have with ongoing content being distributed in the game. I think we will continue to do that.”
Piers Harding-Rolls, research director, Games at Ampere Analysis, told Eurogamer that if loot boxes fall under gaming law in the UK, there will be “significant consequences” for the company.
“The use of loot boxes, especially in games played by children, has been under the legal microscope for many years,” Harding-Rolls said. “I think the industry could have been more proactive in self-regulating the use of loot boxes, for example five years ago, to avert extensive government oversight, but that’s the situation we are in today. The industry has taken some steps – introduced better parental controls, declaration of loot box odds and the introduction of alternatives to loot boxes, but it has been a relatively slow process and ad hoc in nature. “
Ampere estimates that the FIFA franchise is worth $ 2 billion annually. Dollars to EA across all versions of the game and its related activities. Ultimate Team is estimated to have generated over $ 1.2 billion. In net sales over the last financial year and the UK is considered an important market in terms of global sales.
And children are an important part of that market. In Ampere’s latest UK online consumer survey, taken during the second quarter of 2021, 31 per cent of respondents aged 13 to 15 said they had played a FIFA title in the last three months. 20 percent of 16- to 24-year-olds said the same thing. “There is no doubt that younger players are important to the FIFA franchise in the UK,” Harding-Rolls said.
“As a result, if loot boxes are to fall under UK gaming law, there will be some significant consequences for EA in relation to FIFA. If EA wants to continue with unseen loot box-based player packages in the game that can be purchased with real money, it will probably be necessary to secure a gambling license.Having a gaming license comes with various conditions, all of which will increase the operating costs to control.
“It will also be necessary to provide a split experience for under 18s by removing these premium packages from the game for these players and implementing an age verification solution. There is both technology and economy in the game here.
“EA has implemented preview packages on a timer that sit with premium loot box packages. A wholesale switch to preview packages only would change the Ultimate Team experience for many adult players and would, in my opinion, require a significant overhaul of the Ultimate Team. However, I am confident that EA is testing changes in the state based on potential regulatory outcomes and is looking closely at ways to maintain engagement and revenue generation, even with significant changes. “