EA’s continued loot box apology trail is now bleeding over into its sports titles, specifically the Ultimate Team mode. The publishing giant confirmed to Eurogamer that it will include odds disclosures for the contents of FIFA Ultimate Team card packs in all future titles, beginning with FIFA 19. “For Ultimate Team, when you buy a pack you know what you are getting. You are getting a certain number of assets that are guaranteed – and we’re going to start to do pack odds disclosures that’ll show you the odds of what you might get,” said EA Sports vice president and COO Daryl Holt.
The decision comes after years of fan outcry for increased transparency in the contents of FIFA’s loot box equivalent. FUT card packs currently include very vague descriptions of what players might receive, doing very little to inform their purchase and leading to some fans painstaking analyzing the system to break the code.
The FIFA Ultimate Team mode, which is also included in other EA Sports titles, has come under further scrutiny after last year’s Battlefront II loot box snafu. That game’s inclusion and implementation of blind box mechanics stoked a massive backlash to such systems, leading EA DICE to completely overhaul both the title’s loot box and progression systems. That soon led to communities focusing on the Ultimate Team mode and demanding change. Holt, however, doesn’t see the Battlefront II and FUT criticisms as being comparable.
“FIFA Ultimate Team is a separate mode you engage with, and you can choose or not choose to play, or you can choose or not choose to purchase … Choice is key. We want to make sure people can choose how they want to engage with the game, what they want to pay and spend on, and that fairness is wrapped around that choice such that there’s not a detriment to that choice. When you’re talking about Ultimate Team, there is a definite amount of choice involved we want people to feel good about, and then get the value they feel out of the time and money they’re spending with it, and we think that works differently to the loot box controversies that were surrounding Battlefront,” said Holt.
Despite his position, Holt’s conformation of odds disclosures marks another major change in EA’s loot box strategy. The publisher touted that its forthcoming titles Battlefield V and Anthem will not include loot boxes during its E3-adjacent EA Play event earlier this month, further acknowledging that changes were needed. Holt even hinted that odds disclosures could be added to Ultimate Team modes in other titles, such as Madden and NHL. “That’ll be in our product year 19 titles,” said Holt.
It comes as no surprise that EA would make changes to the Ultimate Team mode as it has proved extremely successful financially for the company. That enticing cash flow has led the company to defend the mode against claims that it resembles gambling mechanics, with EA recently doubling down on the continual implementation of the mode in the face of growing anti-loot box sentiment and legislation. “For one, we don’t believe in the gambling aspect of some of the mechanics we’re introducing, because there is no real-world currency value to the packs,” said Holt. Even when its claims that items unlocked through FUT purchases cannot be exchanged for actual currency have been thoroughly debunked, EA seems steadfast in moving forward with the mode’s inclusion.
Though the change in messaging is welcome, Holt was noticeably vague regarding details of how the odds of FUT card packs will be displayed and how detailed the breakdown of pack contents will be beyond saying it will display “at least that aspect of understanding what the chances are of getting X, Y and Z card.” When reached for further comment, EA chose not to offer any further details on odds disclosures in FUT.