A lawsuit in France has made the claim that the Electronic Arts, commonly known as EA, owned incentivised video game FIFA Ultimate Team, for which players collect card packs, can create future gamblers and should therefore be reclassified as a gambling game.
For those that don’t know, FIFA Ultimate Team, or FUT, involves putting together a team using virtual packs of players and is incorporated under the incredibly popular football simulation game, EA Sports’ annual release FIFA. These virtual card packs are expensive to purchase and to collect and in that sense are similar to loot boxes in other games.
No Ethical Concerns
In the game, players are encouraged to build the best possible football squad by winning online matches that payout in rewarding coins which can then be used in order to purchase players and further improve your squad. As well as paying for these cards using the in-game currency, players are able to buy them with real life cash. For example, a pack of 12 rare gold cards costs its shopper 2,000 FIFA points which is worth more than £10. And, to make it worse, like a card pack in real life, you do not know who is in the pack meaning you may end up with a worthless pack.
This game mode has been part of FIFA since their 2009 version and in France is worth hundreds of thousands of Euros a year to EA. This has led to the claimant in the case in France to argue that, rather than being seen in society as an online video game, it should instead be relabelled as a form of gambling.
EA has said previously that it had no ethical concerns whatsoever over these FUT packs and in the UK, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) has said that it does not see such incentives as gambling. However, two Parisian lawyers, Karim Morand-Lahouazi and Victor Zagury, argue that EA have created a dangerously illusionary and addictive product and that the purchasing of packs equates to nothing more than a bet.
Zagury went on to explain;
“In this game, everyone wants to have a dream team to go as far as possible. My client spent €600 in five months without ever getting a big player. The developers of this game mode have created an illusionary and particularly addictive system. The more you pay, the more you have the possibility of getting big players.
We believe that a gambling game has been integrated into this video game because buying packs is nothing more than a bet. It is the logic of a casino that has entered their homes. Today, an 11 or 12-year-old teenager can, without any restriction, play FUT and commit money because there is no parental control system in this mode. Belgium and the Netherlands have already taken up this issue.”
Got, Got, Don’t Need
The pair represent a 32-year-old chauffeur known as Mamadou who, instead of paying his rent, has wasted upwards of £500 on FIFA 20, which was released in September, alone. To make matters worse, Mamadou didn’t even manage to collect a single player of note despite his considerable outlay, claiming that the best player he manged to collect was the Napoli player Kostas Manolas who he had never even heard of and didn’t want.
According to Mamadou, speaking in the French publication L’Équipe;
“You quickly become addicted to this game. Whenever I buy a pack, I tell myself that this is the last time, but I always do it again. You get so frustrated when you don’t get good enough players that you buy again and again.”
These card packs and other loot boxes are already outlawed in the Netherlands and Belgium and this case could lead to a ban in France also, potentially followed by an EU wide ban that would no longer apply to the UK. It is believed that around 20% of EA’s net revenue came from selling Ultimate Team packs in 2018 which equates to £850 million.