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Electronic Arts has been criticised for promoting FIFA microtransactions at a UK toy retailer.
Smyths Toys’ latest in-shop magazine features an advertisement for FIFA 21, which includes a four-step guide for “creating your Ultimate Team”, Step 2 being “use FIFA points to open packs”.
According to a Twitter user, it’s the second year EA has promoted FIFA microtransactions in the Smyths Toys magazine.
FIFA Points are the virtual currency used to buy FUT packs, the loot crate mechanic that awards random players for use in the Ultimate Team mode.
Ultimate Team is FIFA’s most popular mode and also its most profitable. In its last fiscal year, creator Electronic Arts made $1.5bn from Ultimate Team microtransactions across FIFA, NHL and Madden – the third year in a row the mode has generated over $1bn.
UPDATE: An EA spokesperson told VGC that the FIFA Points advertisement should not have appeared in a channel seen by children and committed to an immediate review of its media placements. It said:
“We take very seriously the responsibilities we have when marketing EA games and experiences in channels seen by children. In spite of this, we’re aware that advertising for FIFA Points has appeared in environments it shouldn’t have. We have been working diligently with Smyths to ensure this advertisement is not distributed in any remaining copies of their 2020 catalogue.
“We have also undertaken an immediate review of all future media placements and are working to ensure each of our marketing efforts better reflects the responsibility we take for the experience of our younger players.”
ORIGINAL STORY CONTINUES: A top-rated comment on Reddit criticised EA’s advertising in Smyths Toys: “I find this extremely wrong as not only is it in a kid’s magazine, but they are actually saying that you should go about the game by buying points and opening packs. Normalizing in-game purchases for kids since an early age is so f***ing unethical.”
The loot box mechanic has faced mainstream criticism in recent years amid comparisons to gambling.
Some European countries have already classified loot boxes as gambling, while all three console platform holders have introduced policies that require games made for their consoles to disclose loot box odds.
Loot boxes have also attracted the attention of the UK’s House of Lords. In September 2019, a report from the UK’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee advised the UK government to regulate loot boxes under gambling law and ban them from sale to children.
There is currently no legal consensus in the US on whether loot boxes constitute gambling. However, games ratings board the ESRB has begun flagging games that contain random in-game purchases such as loot boxes or gacha mechanics.
In California, a recent class action lawsuit was brought against Electronic Arts, claiming that the publisher’s Ultimate Team modes breach the state’s gambling laws.
The suit alleges that EA “relies on creating addictive behaviors in consumers to generate huge revenues” and that EA’s Ultimate Team Packs “are predatory and designed to entice gamers to gamble.”
In August 2019, FIFA Ultimate Team lead producer Garreth Reeder argued that FIFA’s developers weren’t responsible for policing consumer spending.
With some FIFA users known to spend $1,000s on FUT packs, he was asked if EA Sports had considered putting a limit on the number of packs that can be purchased.
“No, it’s maybe – based on feedback – something we look at down the road,” he said. “But, I think, we look at it as consumer choice for what they want to open… We’ll keep listening to feedback but we’ve no plans to change that.”