EA has announced it will retain the ‘loot box’ model of randomised rewards for its Ultimate Team mode in FIFA 23, despite recent UK government-led inquiries into video game monetisation systems, and general disappointment of the mechanic from the community.
FIFA’s loot boxes have been criticised for encouraging gambling and overspending, and have been labelled ‘shady’ by some. Despite this, EA is forging ahead – even going so far as to claim loot boxes are beloved by players of FIFA’s Ultimate Team mode, with these microtransactions helping to create a positive, engaging experience.
‘We wholeheartedly believe that Ultimate Team and FUT Packs, which have been part of the game for more than a decade, are a part of FIFA that players love,’ EA recently said in a statement to Eurogamer. ‘Fans love that the game reflects the real-world excitement and strategy of building and managing a squad. Giving players the choice to spend if they want to is fair.’
As meticulously outlined by EA, these loot boxes will remain optional in the Ultimate Team of FIFA 23, as they’ve always been, but with a ‘short cut’ easily available for players who don’t wish to grind for the best players, these loot boxes certainly encourage extra spending.
‘Nine out of 10 FUT Packs opened in FIFA 22 were earned,’ EA claimed to Eurogamer, indicating only 10% of players actually purchase loot boxes – but those players who do fork out can earn rewards faster than others, gaining a distinct advantage in online play.
In July 2022, the UK government issued an edict to game developers stating they would need to take action on loot boxes, or legislation would be drawn up to deal with them. The microtransaction system is already banned in several countries in Europe, and the UK government is currently weighing options.
While game developers are being encouraged to proactively reshape the games industry, impactful change will not begin with FIFA 23. As EA made clear, it has no plans to change its loot box system, with Ultimate Team remaining in its current form.
According to Eurogamer, Ultimate Team drives ‘hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue’ for EA with each game iteration, which likely explains why no action has taken place just yet. While the UK government may take a harder stance that forces change in future, expect FIFA 23 to be more of the same, for now.
Elsewhere, one of the first prominent games to feature a loot box system, Overwatch, will remove them from the game completely on 30 August 2022.