An EA executive has said that can’t see FIFA‘s approach to monetisation in its lucrative Ultimate Team mode changing, even amid law changes that could see loot boxes classed as gambling.
In an interview with Eurogamer, EA Chief Experience Officer Chris Bruzzo was asked how the company would react if the UK – one of FIFA’s major markets – began to classify loot boxes (and thus FIFA Ultimate Team packs) as gambling.
“Most importantly, we will work with government,” Bruzzo began. “We are ready. We’re already at the table. We continue to bring actions all the time. We’ll bring more. We’re ready.” However, Bruzzo continued by saying he can’t see monetized loot boxes changing, due to their apparent importance in providing the funding to continue developing FIFA games year-round.
After explaining that the evolution of gaming now means that developers can no longer take breaks after the release of a game, Bruzzo said, “So if we’re delivering great value, and apparently we are because 100 million people are playing the game, and when you get to that many people playing the game across every form in which you can play it, yes, that’s a pretty big scale, and it can generate significant revenues. And we need those revenues in order to continue to pay our developers so they can continue to make more value and make the game more fun over time. I don’t see that changing. I think players are clearly responding to the fun that they’re having with ongoing content being distributed in the game. I think we’re gonna continue to do that.”
While Bruzzo can’t see the seeming need for monetization changing, a change in law in the UK would likely force EA to change how it’s implemented. Gambling regulations would force EA to obtain a gambling license in the UK and, as pointed out by analyst Piers Harding-Rolls to Eurogamer, would potentially also force the company to add an age verification system to FIFA to stop under-18s from accessing paid gambling content.
While EA has repeatedly said that its FUT packs and loot boxes do not constitute gambling, its own financial documents (pages 17 and 18) point out that changes to laws could impact its business model in future. That’s no surprise, given that leaked internal documents show that EA Sports want to
When Belgium banned loot boxes, EA simply stopped selling its premium FIFA Points currency in the region, meaning FUT packs could only be earned by grinding in-game. Given Bruzzo’s comments, that feels unlikely in future cases, although the executive gave no hint as to what the approach might be.
The executive did make clear that EA was thinking more about cases in which players over-spend on the game, and how to combat that behaviour. “I do think we need to talk about the extremes,” he explained. “I do think we need to work on real solutions for those players who find themselves in the extreme situation where they’ve lost control of their time where they’re spending.”
While EA itself disputes that the systems used by FIFA constitute gambling, a report from the GambleAware charity found that links between loot boxes and gambling had been “robustly verified”, with at-risk individuals offering “outsized loot box profits” to developers.
Eurogamer’s interview is well worth reading in its entirety, with many facets of EA’s monetization strategy explored.