In theory FIFA Ultimate Team should be a gloriously fun mode to play. Collecting cards to create a team and take on other players who do the same. It can be challenging and rewarding at the very least.
In truth it is anything but, because of insidious gambling mechanics that should not be allowed in any game children can play. I mean that in the sense that PEGI rate the game as suitable for ages 3+.
Now don’t get me wrong, I actually have no issue with EA creating a game that has gambling mechanics for player cards, but they need to be upfront about it and gate it to adults only.
There is a reason children aren’t allowed into casinos, bettings shops, allowed to use slot machines, or any other form of gambling. It is addictive and children don’t have brains developed enough to know when to stop.
It is the same with addicts. However that is another discussion and one I do plan of covering. This is aimed at the idea of companies like EA allowing children to participate in gambling, yet passing it off as something else.
Calling your system ‘Surprise Mechanics‘ to try and circumvent what they actually are is a disgusting move and one EA should be called out on at every opportunity.
I was a child once and I love buying and opening Panini stickers and filling my album. Whether that be buying a new pack, or trading in the playground. It was fun.
I see the appeal in FIFA Ultimate Team too. Not only can you get packs and fill up an ‘album’ of sorts. You can also use the collected cards to build a team and play them against others.
The main difference comes from the difference between something virtual and something physical. If you go to the newsagent and buy packs of stickers, you have to hand over physical money, which feels finite. Mainly because it is.
Yet despite the likelihood of a parents bank account only having finite funds, the child doesn’t understand that. Not should they, as in their mind, no actual money is being spent. EA and its ilk know this and tempt the player to want more and more, knowing full well the tricks to get people to spend and spend.
Now there is always an argument that a parent should take charge. They shouldn’t be leaving little Jimmy alone to play those games. They should be aware of what is being spent. Shouldn’t have their details stored on the machine.
Here is a truth. Whilst I know this and don’t store my payment details, force a password to make any purchase and have the console in a shared room. I am in the minority. I am clued up because I have been a gamer for 30+ years.
Jimmy’s parents haven’t been gamers most of their lives. They may be aware that playing a Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty or Mortal Kombat isn;t the best for little Jimmy. It has a PEGI or BBFC rating on the front advising it isn’t age appropriate.
FIFA doesn’t have that. Right on the front it suggests the game is perfectly ok for a child age 3 and up. So why should those parents even think about gambling being in that game. Kids can’t gamble, you need to be 18+ to gamble.
There should be nothing in a game that a 3 year old can play, that can be damaging. A game a 3 year old can play shouldn’t need constant supervision for potential gambling issues. The same as you wouldn’t expect to see a brutal murder scene in the latest Paw Patrol movie.
But here we are. A child with little to no concept of the value of money can spend obscene amounts of it on small transactions to get new packs of cards. Completely unaware of the damage it can do.
Again! EA are very aware of the scenario and not only make it easy to make the purchases, they use the same techniques a slot machine uses to get punters in. Pretty lights and the dangled carrot of a big prize at the end. In this case it isn’ a £500 jackpot, it is the chance of getting a Messi, Neymar, Salah or Ronaldo card.
The odds though are ridiculous as you are flooded with low to mid tier players. You get the occasional higher tier player, but the god tier players are so rare you need to buy more and more to get them.
It is possible though, as you see them in the game. Your opponents have them. So you buy more and more packs, getting a bunch of ‘trash’ with the odd gem, but still not the ‘Ultimate’ players. Buy, get disappointed, buy again, get something half decent, think you now have a better chance, buy again, rinse and repeat.
This is a cycle and adult can get into and if an adult can get into such a cycle. They you had better believe a child can.
Now obviously the title is a bit tongue in cheek and I am not recommending that you let children put down FIFA and play Grand Theft Auto instead. What I am saying though, is EA and the like need to think more carefully about the games they put out.
I am not even suggesting that FIFA Ultimate Team should be banned. If EA want to keep it going, then great go for it. It should be rated age appropriately, which means an 18+ rating, thanks to the gambling. It should be made clear front and centre that there are risks with the game.
If EA still want to keep the large sales numbers for FIFA by keeping the 3+ PEGI rating. Then they should release that as a completely separate title. No Ultimate Team, just the other core modes. Then make FIFA Ultimate Team a F2P title that stands on its own. No relation to the main FIFA game.
Would it mean FIFA and such earning a bit less money? Probably, but a little less money from FIFA and Ultimate Team as separate games is still more money than most games will ever dream of making.
This goes for every single game that has anything close to gambling mechanics in it. F2P games rated 18+ that protect the children and give the parents a chance to make more informed decisions.