The frequency of Ultimate Team Promo events increased dramatically in FIFA 17. Scream Team cards, European Team of the Tournament Cards, and Ones to Watch Cards were all introduced as new Pack Promos, while Squad Building Challenges allowed for the release of other premium cards. The new cards allowed players to make unique teams full of colorful items and footballers you would never have seen otherwise. They also made players more inclined to open packs, with the hope of packing one of the new items, making it worthwhile for EA to introduce as many as they could. For FIFA 18, EA Sports’ Promo events have improved significantly, offering more than just a set of players to pack, but they could do with more variety.
In FIFA 16 and earlier, upgraded player cards were limited to Team of the Weeks, Heroes, Man of the Match’s, and the usual yearly events such as TOTY and TOTS, all of which were based on real-world performances. However, in FIFA 17, other promos were introduced that were solely based around the time of the year. FUTmas cards came to SBCs at Christmas and the theme was players who played in the shirt number than matched the date, FUT Birthday cards released at the anniversary of Ultimate Team’s release and were a throwback to overpowered cards of previous years. Ones to Watch Cards released at the beginning of the season, and changed in-line with a new signing’s TOTWs. They were all excellent additions that had a positive affect on the transfer market and saw the release of interesting cards that you wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
All those returned in FIFA 18, alongside some Promo cards we’d never seen before. At the beginning of March, just over five months after the game’s release, we’ve seen more than ten different types of special card, with a new promotion releasing every couple of weeks. EA Sports, however, have managed to make the release of each Promo exciting.
The first way they’ve improved is in the aesthetics, both in terms of the pack animations and the cards themselves. Building on the already excellent pack animation that keeps you looking out for the shine on the side of the pack, Promos like Ones to Watch or TOTY saw slight changes that heightened the excitement of opening packs. The blue fog that surrounds the pack when you opened one during TOTY, or the way the player walked out from behind the pack like a zombie when you packed at Scream Team card, each little change made the individual Promos feel like an exciting event. The cards themselves have also seen a marked improvement. The design of the special cards, the standard in-forms and FUTmas SNC cards in particular, make them items that you want to add to you club simply so that you can show them off.
However, the most important improvement to FIFA 18’s Promo events is the additional pieces of content that make the event something that takes over the whole of FIFA Ultimate Team, and not just the packs. The release of 81+ two player upgrade SBCs, League themed pack SBCs, or Team of the Week upgrade SBCs mean that even the generally unexciting cards have a use during promotions. You can sink you’re unusable cards into SBCs in the hope of packing something excellent or take advantage of the dramatic market changes. 83 rated cards often double in value, but the higher rated cards drop in price due to how many packs are being opened, making it the perfect time for making profit from trading.
The Weekly Objectives, a new feature introduced in FIFA 18, have also been taken over by Promos this year. The Premium Andrea Pirlo SBC required a card that could only be gained from completing a weekly objective and Andy Carroll’s FUTmas card was a reward during the Christmas period. All of these things make the promos feel like more than a way for EA Sports to make money, which is a vast improvement over previous years.
That being said, there’s still some way to go to make the promotions as good as they can be. The themes for why players are given special cards is being repeated too often, with Ones to Watch cards and Path to Glory cards essentially being the same thing for different players. They both increase in rating as they get more informs, with nothing more than their color differentiating them. Then, the majority of other special cards are small upgrades to players that performed well that week or, for Scream Cards, seemingly chosen at random. Also, many of them are completely unusable due to what player attributes are needed to be useful. The Andy Carroll FUTmas card, which was essentially free for everyone, is so slow and technically limited that no one will ever bother using it, and therefore isn’t excited by doing what is needed to get him.
Finally, EA Sports has got the price of many SBC promos completely wrong, making many of them terrible value for money. For example, FUTmas Henrikh Mkhitaryan is untradable and sees a +1 increase over his base card, yet it was more than 200,000 coins to complete. The more recent, 86 rated in-form, is half that price and has the added value of being tradable. This has happened with many of the other SBCs, included Prime Icons, none of which could be considered value for money. These problems need to be addressed to keep people invested throughout an entire year’s worth of promo events.
In short, what the promotions need is more variety. Players should receive special cards for more reasons, beyond a real-world single match’s performance. Give those that play FIFA 18 the chance to choose more often from some options, like they could to a degree for TOTY, or release cards that change in other ways, whether it be weak foot/skill moves rating or the ability to get chemistry links in more ways, to more players. Maybe players like Eden Hazard, who has been given a CAM special card twice already this season, could get cards that get full chemistry is all the positions he plays (ST, LW, RW, CAM) so that they aren’t as limited. Or a different version could get soft chem-links to players he’s previously played with, rather than just those in the league he’s currently playing in. This could be done for any player, at any time, and could make the more undesirable players more useful.
EA could also tie different card types into new modes. FIFA Ultimate Team desperately needs something that is competitive in a similar way to FUT Champions, but runs during the week and doesn’t force you to play games. A tournament system would work perfectly, where different special cards are awarded for how many times you win each tournament. Or one player could be chosen and the more times you win, the better the card you’re awarded is. Different special cards could also be brought to the already existing modes, replacing the pack rewards in Squad Battles that are pretty useless at this stage in the game, or replacing the meager coin rewards in Online Seasons. It could allow promotions to run constantly throughout the year, persuading players to play the modes they usually avoid, and add some variation to the squads you see.
Rather than the same, over-priced players being seen in promotions with regurgitated themes, it would be great to see some more variety when it comes to special cards in FIFA 18. We’ve seen some improvements over previous years, such as the chance to vote on Team of the Year or in the incorporation of SBCs, but there’s a lot more that could be done to keep players invested for the whole year.