“Players will be actively messaged + incentivized to convert throughout the summer,” a bullet on a leaked slide reads. Another headline put it more simply: “All roads lead to FUT.”The extensive report includes comments from gambling experts as well as an anonymous insider, who told CBC, “For years … they’ve been able to act with a layer of plausible deniability […] Yet in their internal documents, they’re saying, ‘This is our goal. We want people driven to the card pack mode.'”
A Neverending Controversy
EA has insisted that FUT isn’t gambling since at least 2018, even as countries have considered legislation against microtransactions and Belgium has banned them outright. FIFA is consistently one of the world’s highest grossing franchises, but headlines are riddled with stories of players spending thousands of dollars trying to get a player.
The card-collecting mode, in which players open packs to obtain real-world stars for their “ultimate team,” was first introduced in 2009 as a downloadable add-on. It subsequently became one of EA’s most consistent moneymakers, quickly becoming one of the single biggest drivers over FIFA’s online culture. The FIFA calendar is now driven by events like “FUTmas,” in which players are encouraged to obtain versions of stars like Arturo Vidal.
But while popular, FIFA fans have complained that FUT has overtaken more traditional modes like Online Team Play and career mode. Reddit threads like this one are very common. A petition to “#FixCareerMode” garnered more than 8,000 signatures.
FUT is also a notorious money sink compared to even other Ultimate Team modes. Players and influencers alike have consistently complained about worsening rewards from modes like Weekend League, where the reward for grinding through 30 games is typically a handful of packs and undesirable players. A popular Reddit thread showed the #1 Weekend League player in the world receiving almost nothing for his efforts.
What’s more, extremely low pack odds make it very difficult to obtain top-end players. The chances of obtaining an event player is frequently less than 1 percent.
The slides leaked to the CBC seemingly confirm what EA is rarely willing to say publicly — that all FIFA modes exist in service of driving engagement with FUT. While it doesn’t necessarily rule out of the possibility of future improvements to career mode, which has been largely stagnant over the past generation, it does serve as a potential indicator of where EA’s priorities lie.
EA responded that “summer is a very active time in our FUT community,” and that the development team is pushing out new content and community events. In the world of soccer, the Premier League is about a month away from ending, and the Champion’s League have reached the semifinals. Late last week, EA released the Team of the Season promo, featuring high-powered versions of the season’s best players.
“Nothing in the leaked document contradicts this in any way – it shows how we are supporting engagement in our game during the summer period, not spending,” EA said.
It called the story “sensationalized” over the course of the lengthy statement, saying that the publisher “firmly disagree that FIFA or any of our games involve gambling.” EA also referred to a recent case in which Google was granted a move to dismiss a lawsuit related to loot boxes on the Google Play Store.
Every IGN FIFA Game Review Ever
Nevertheless, the leaked slides reflect a number of troubling trends within FIFA. As fans have observed, event rewards are getting worse with each passing year, encouraging players to spend more to make up the deficit. Single-player story modes like The Journey have included multiple FUT tie-ins. FIFA Ultimate Team remains the largest part of FIFA’s culture, and EA is seemingly fine with that.
“FUT is the cornerstone and we are doing everything we can to drive players here,” a leaked slide says. That is unlikely to change any time soon.
We sent our own list of questions and a request for comment to EA, but the publisher responded by directing us to its official statement. FIFA 21 is currently available on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Switch, and PC.
Kat Bailey is a Senior News Editor at IGN and an unlucky West Ham supporter.