FIFA is the best-selling sports video game franchise in the world. Electronic Arts can’t live without it, especially due to Ultimate Team. In this game mode, that completes ten years in March 22nd, players have the chance to build the team of their dreams. In order to do it, they need to spend time, in-game currency or FIFA Points. This last one is bought with real money and can be traded by packs with random players and other items. A big part of EA’s profits is made with the sale of FIFA Points. Millions of players around the world buy them in order to improve their teams.
The problem here is that EA had to stop selling FIFA Points in Belgium on both consoles and PC on January 31. According to them, this doesn’t have a significant impact on their financial results but more countries will probably follow the same steps. Netherlands and Germany may be the next ones.
Basically, EA is being accused of gambling, because FIFA Points are bought with real money and they give access to packs with random cards. Other companies, like Valve, Blizzard and 2K Games, have decided to make changes in their in-game loot box system but EA refuses to accept that they are breaking the law and looks that they want to bring this dispute to the most higher instances.
FIFA Points are used in a way that can be considered gambling. This is particularly serious if we take into account that people may not realize they are gambling. It is important to remember that there are many children playing this game and they usually are vulnerable to this kind of tactics. To build a top-quality squad, you may have to spend thousands of dollars…
According to the EA’s last financial results report (third fiscal quarter ended December 31), they made $1.199 billion (!) in digital net bookings, representing 74% of their business on a trailing 12 months basis. However, it wasn’t a good year since they had several problems with their most popular titles, like Battlefield 1. FIFA Ultimate Team was the exception but the results were not good enough to offset the global decline. In other words, more than ever EA needs FUT just as it is.
FIFA 20, the 27th instalment in the FIFA series, is expected to be released in late September. They need to take a decision about if they will keep micro-transactions in the new title or not. Removing FIFA Points from the game is almost out of the question because it would be really difficult to keep profit high without it. They could make adjustments to meet the demands of gambling regulators but most likely it would have a huge impact on their results. We believe that one option is to disclose the odds of getting every single card and in more detail than they are doing now. That would make the game more transparent and maybe it could convince the regulators from several countries to leave the game system as it is.
One thing we know: it will not be an easy decision. It will be very interesting to see what they decide.