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LOOT BOXES, PACKS, THE BATTLEFRONT II CONTROVERSY AND FIFA

Nov 30, 2017

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LOOT BOXES, PACKS, THE BATTLEFRONT II CONTROVERSY AND FIFA
When it comes to the thorny issue of loot boxes and prize containers (or packs as we know them), FIFA Ultimate Team has never been far from the spotlight when the latest controversy hits the news. In the past, criticism from parents, players, consumer groups and even national newspapers have all highlighted issues with player protection, and the ability to spend real world money with seemingly reckless abandon on things like FIFA Points.
But this last month, the loot box gaming landscape has shifted, perhaps forever. With EA’s "Star Wars Battlefront II" coming under industry wide attack for its use of loot bins and "Star Cards" (which culminated in the most down-voted comment in Reddit history). Under that pressure, the BF II team have since backtracked and agreed to remove pay-loot packing containers from Battlefront 2 until they can better balance the game's progression systems. They will, however , be returning at some point in the future.
As well as that high-profile outrage, the UK government also became compelled to respond to a petition which highlighted the need for greater protection for vulnerable children and adults in relation to in-game gambling and loot boxes. Both of which as we know are on the rise with their presence found in nearly all AAA video games coming out both this year, and next. Similar cases have also been raised recently in Belgium and the Netherlands.
So with loot cardboard boxes and in-game "gambling" at the height of controversy, and publishers across the land no doubt about to embark on a big change of strategy, it’s important for us as fans and commentators of all things FIFA to ask some difficult questions of our own.
Firstly, the big one: is FIFA Greatest Team itself aspirationally play to win, pay to succeed, or somewhere in between? And why is the perception of FIFA’s randomised packs, any different to those found in Star Wars Battlefront II?
Now I know most people will leap to answer the first question with some variation associated with “pay to win”, which to a degree I understand. But held up against Star Wars Battlefront II’s model, I think that snap reaction does somewhat of a disservice to the FIFA developers, who in the last few years especially, have added more ways to earn coins and packs through simply playing the game than we’ve ever had in FIFA before.
FUT Draft started the trend, offering coin rewards and packs for winning multiple matches on the spin. This year, the all-new Squad Battles have given even offline players perhaps their best ever chance at earning rewards. Then there are SBCs and of course FUT Champions for those good enough to duke it out online for the very best rewards FUT has to offer. So in terms of options and diversity, FUT is at a really good place right now in terms of balancing the incentivisation for us to play, instead of just pay.
I think it’s also important to look at the history regarding FUT in this debate because the difference within the strength of reaction to the loot armoires in Battlefront II (compared to FIFA) is one of longevity. Whether you agree with the model or not, packs have been in FUT since day one, going all the way back to TIMORE 09. Opening those little bundles involving random terror/delight is very much part of the fabric connected with FUT to the point where the overall game couldn’t function without them. It’s not like EA suddenly dropped loot boxes in to PAURA 18. They’ve always been there and as such are a much more accepted part of the game for FIFA’s broader and more casual audience.
The big differentiator for FIFA as well is the Transfer Market, which allows players to spend the coins they’ve earnt directly on the players and items they want, rather than relying on the actual randomness of packages entirely for rewards. That system also allows FIFA players to make profit from trading and becomes yet another outlet for people to use their skill as well as knowledge of football to make coins instead of dipping in to their wallets.
However , that doesn’t make concerns from moms and dads, journalists, players and also governing bodies any kind of less legitimate, particularly for FIFA whose age rating is just PEGI 3 in Europe. Because whilst great strides have been made to improve game mode diversity, FUT is still very much built around a culture of buying packs, be it with in-game currency, or real foreign currency. And these packs are in every sense of the word, random. For your £79. 99 (12, 000 FIFA Points) there’s absolutely no guarantee that you’ll receive anything even close to coming back on that investment.
Much of the high-profile media coverage on in-game gambling centres upon children who are of course more vulnerable, and often unaware of their spending. But it’s adults that are of greater concern to me when it comes to FIFA. Because even though they are well aware of what they are doing, they are the ones with access to greater pools of wealth whether it is credit, or earnt. And they are equally susceptible (if not more so) to the addictive rhythm of opening provides. A recent BBC surveyfound that 61% with 18-24-year-old football fans choose to engage with the sport via video games. Which on one hand for EA represents a huge market opportunity, but also a huge responsibility over duty for care.
And it is the duty of care space where I think EA can do more to protect and inform consumers both young and old when engaging along with digital content within FIFA. The mystique over pack weights is one area of regular criticism and if there’s one thing government legislation will impact it may be this. We’ve already seen games published in China require their algorithms or “chance” rates with regard to loot boxes to be openly published and I can see that happening in the UK too. When you gamble online on the National Lottery website for example , each Instant Play game tells you the average "win" percentage. So why not the same inside something like FIFA?
As a publisher and responsible company, the Star Wars Battlefront 2 debacle for me is actually an huge opportunity for EA to lead the particular gaming industry via this turbulence, rather than simply reacting whenever the latest internet lynch mob arrives at their door. If they can be proactive around micro-transactions, perhaps by removing the mystique around their algorithms, or maybe governing/limiting how many TIMORE Points players can actually buy when they're exceeding usual spending habits, I think they could, in a meaningful way, shift the negative perception currently hanging over the company. And if EA don’t, another big publisher will.
Now would APP really cap their own profit by potentially limiting FIFA Point sales? I think that’s the most interesting part of this debate to be honest because then this becomes less about whether it's technically possible (it is), to how high EA see their own duty of care for gamers on the priority scale? Now is considered easy for me to sit here along with say “duty about care should trump all”, but for EXPERT ADVISOR it would be a massive statement from a company of their size and status, but also potentially a way out of this mess.
Whether FIFA itself has a “good” or diverse micro-transaction model not really, this whole event has sent shockwaves around the industry and it will potentially force typically the FIFA developers to look closely at their very own framework and whether they’re doing enough to keep FIFA within the right side of this debate. Increasing game diversity further will help and I’m sure that’s already around the agenda for PAURA 19, but it is very the bigger, braver steps I’ve outlined could really define what will likely be an industry wide generation 2 . 0 of loot folders in video games.
FIFA Ultimate Team offers one of the most commercially successful micro-transaction models throughout gaming history, grossing over $1 billion a year in digital revenue. It is an absolute monster of a success story for EA in addition to I’m sure it will continue to be exactly that. However , due to recent developments EA, TIMORE and the industry as a whole are at a cross-roads. And the direction TOOL choose to take with PAURA and other titles, I hope is one of leading, rather than being led.

When it comes to the thorny issue of loot boxes and buy fut 18 coins prize containers (or packs as we know them), FIFA Ultimate Team has never been far from the spotlight when the latest controversy hits the news. In the past, criticism from parents, players, consumer groups and even national newspapers have all highlighted issues with player protection, and the ability to spend real world money with seemingly reckless abandon on things like FIFA Points.

 

But this last month, the loot box gaming landscape has shifted, perhaps forever. With EA’s "Star Wars Battlefront II" coming under industry wide attack for its use of loot bins and "Star Cards" (which culminated in the most down-voted comment in Reddit history). Under that pressure, the BF II team have since backtracked and agreed to remove pay-loot packing containers from Battlefront 2 until they can better balance the game's progression systems. They will, however , be returning at some point in the future.

 

As well as that high-profile outrage, the UK government also became compelled to respond to a petition which highlighted the need for greater protection for vulnerable children and adults in relation to in-game gambling and loot boxes. Both of which as we know are on the rise with their presence found in nearly all AAA video games coming out both this year, and next. Similar cases have also been raised recently in Belgium and the Netherlands.

 

So with loot cardboard boxes and in-game "gambling" at the height of controversy, and publishers across the land no doubt about to embark on a big change of strategy, it’s important for us as fans and commentators of all things FIFA to ask some difficult questions of our own.

 

Firstly, the big one: is FIFA Greatest Team itself aspirationally play to win, pay to succeed, or somewhere in between? And why is the perception of FIFA’s randomised packs, any different to those found in Star Wars Battlefront II?

 

Now I know most people will leap to answer the first question with some variation associated with “pay to win”, which to a degree I understand. But held up against Star Wars Battlefront II’s model, I think that snap reaction does somewhat of a disservice to the FIFA developers, cheap fut 18 coins who in the last few years especially, have added more ways to earn coins and packs through simply playing the game than we’ve ever had in FIFA before.

 

FUT Draft started the trend, offering coin rewards and packs for winning multiple matches on the spin. This year, the all-new Squad Battles have given even offline players perhaps their best ever chance at earning rewards. Then there are SBCs and of course FUT Champions for those good enough to duke it out online for the very best rewards FUT has to offer. So in terms of options and diversity, FUT is at a really good place right now in terms of balancing the incentivisation for us to play, instead of just pay.

 

I think it’s also important to look at the history regarding FUT in this debate because the difference within the strength of reaction to the loot armoires in Battlefront II (compared to FIFA) is one of longevity. Whether you agree with the model or not, packs have been in FUT since day one, going all the way back to TIMORE 09. Opening those little bundles involving random terror/delight is very much part of the fabric connected with FUT to the point where the overall game couldn’t function without them. It’s not like EA suddenly dropped loot boxes in to PAURA 18. They’ve always been there and as such are a much more accepted part of the game for FIFA’s broader and more casual audience.

 

The big differentiator for FIFA as well is the Transfer Market, which allows players to spend the coins they’ve earnt directly on the players and items they want, rather than relying on the actual randomness of packages entirely for rewards. That system also allows FIFA players to make profit from trading and becomes yet another outlet for people to use their skill as well as knowledge of football to make coins instead of dipping in to their wallets.

 

However , that doesn’t make concerns from moms and dads, journalists, players and also governing bodies any kind of less legitimate, particularly for FIFA whose age rating is just PEGI 3 in Europe. Because whilst great strides have been made to improve game mode diversity, FUT is still very much built around a culture of buying packs, be it with in-game currency, or real foreign currency. And these packs are in every sense of the word, random. For your £79. 99 (12, 000 FIFA Points) there’s absolutely no guarantee that you’ll receive anything even close to coming back on that investment.

 

Much of the high-profile media coverage on in-game gambling centres upon children who are of course more vulnerable, and often unaware of their spending. But it’s adults that are of greater concern to me when it comes to FIFA. Because even though they are well aware of what they are doing, they are the ones with access to greater pools of wealth whether it is credit, or earnt. And they are equally susceptible (if not more so) to the addictive rhythm of opening provides. A recent BBC surveyfound that 61% with 18-24-year-old football fans choose to engage with the sport via video games. Which on one hand for EA represents a huge market opportunity, but also a huge responsibility over duty for care.

 

And it is the duty of care space where I think EA can do more to protect and inform consumers both young and old when engaging along with digital content within FIFA. The mystique over pack weights is one area of regular criticism and if there’s one thing government legislation will impact it may be this. We’ve already seen games published in China require their algorithms or “chance” rates with regard to loot boxes to be openly published and I can see that happening in the UK too. When you gamble online on the National Lottery website for example , each Instant Play game tells you the average "win" percentage. So why not the same inside something like FIFA?

 

As a publisher and responsible company, the Star Wars Battlefront 2 debacle for me is actually an huge opportunity for EA to lead the particular gaming industry via this turbulence, rather than simply reacting whenever the latest internet lynch mob arrives at their door. If they can be proactive around micro-transactions, perhaps by removing the mystique around their algorithms, or maybe governing/limiting how many TIMORE Points players can actually buy when they're exceeding usual spending habits, I think they could, in a meaningful way, shift the negative perception currently hanging over the company. And if EA don’t, another big publisher will.

 

Now would APP really cap their own profit by potentially limiting FIFA Point sales? I think that’s the most interesting part of this debate to be honest because then this becomes less about whether it's technically possible (it is), to how high EA see their own duty of care for gamers on the priority scale? Now is considered easy for me to sit here along with say “duty about care should trump all”, but for EXPERT ADVISOR it would be a massive statement from a company of their size and status, but also potentially a way out of this mess.

 

Whether FIFA itself has a “good” or diverse micro-transaction model not really, this whole event has sent shockwaves around the industry and it will potentially force typically the FIFA developers to look closely at their very own framework and whether they’re doing enough to keep FIFA within the right side of this debate. Increasing game diversity further will help and I’m sure that’s already around the agenda for PAURA 19, but it is very the bigger, braver steps I’ve outlined could really define what will likely be an industry wide generation 2 . 0 of loot folders in video games.

 

FIFA Ultimate Team offers one of the most commercially successful micro-transaction models throughout gaming history, grossing over $1 billion a year in digital revenue. It is an absolute monster of a success story for EA in addition to I’m sure it will continue to be exactly that. However , due to recent developments EA, TIMORE and the industry as a whole are at a cross-roads. And the direction TOOL choose to take with PAURA and other titles, I hope is one of leading, rather than being led.  https://www.randyrun.com/FIF A%2018_currency/