The scummiest publisher of them all, Electronic Arts (EA), is under fire for directly promoting FIFA 21 Ultimate Team in-game purchases to children in the in-store catalog of UK toy retailer Smyths Toys.
Although the publisher is well-versed in the art of shoving micro-transactions down players’ throats at every turn, as we’ve seen on countless occasions (StarWarsBattlefront II, anyone? ), it seems intent on not relinquishing the worst-of-a-bad-bunch crown anytime soon.
The catalog in question is available for free in Smyths Toys stores across the UK and primarily directed at children. The advertisement overtly promotes the purchase of Ultimate Team card packs using FIFA Points (FIFA 21’s virtual in-game currency), even providing an easy to follow four-step guide.
As the ad explains, spending FIFA points allows the player to buy card packs, which, when opened, grant a randomized selection of players, kit, and other in-game goodies to boost the player’s Ultimate Team.
Randomized is the keyword here; while these micro-transactions are voluntary, there’s no guaranteed reward or in-game item, much like real-world gambling. Ludicrously low percentages gate the chance of picking up the very best players. Naturally, the contents only reveal their contents after payment.
Though EA disingenuously refers to the card packs system as ‘surprise mechanics,’ let’s not beat around the bush here; they are nothing more than thinly-veiled, run-of-the-mill loot boxes, or, in other words, gambling. EA is actively using a toy store magazine to encourage children to gamble in FIFA 21.
Ultimate Mode is designed from the ground-up to promote card pack purchases, creating an addictive cycle that impressionable younger games are prone to falling foul to, as documented on countless occasions. The tabloids are awash with stories of children bleeding dry their parents’ bank accounts in the search for an elusive, low probability player.
As for why EA promotes FIFA 21 micro-transactions so aggressively, we need only look at the numbers. Last year alone, Ultimate Team in its various guises (NHL, Madden, FIFA) earned EA a staggering $1.5 billion .
Once again, greed and the endless hunt for profit see EA target the most malleable tranche of gamers and normalize what is generally a highly-regulated practice in most real-world circumstances.
EA has stooped to a new low, but in a damning indictment of the dire state of micro-transactions in video games, it doesn’t come as a surprise.