FIFA Ultimate Team packs are gambling, says Austrian court

Sony has been ordered to pay refunds to several plaintiffs, who reportedly 'gambled' around €400 on FIFA.
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A minor court in the district of Hermagor, Austria has reportedly ruled FIFA Ultimate Team packs are a form of gambling that violates the country’s laws. Now, the court is looking to hold Sony liable in the case of several plaintiffs who ‘gambled away’ over €400 (AU $628) on FIFA packs.

According to Games Wirtschaft (via VGC), the lawsuit was filed on behalf of several players who felt the system was unfair, and did not comply with strict rules around gambling in Austria. The court reportedly agreed, judging that the randomness of Ultimate Team – which can potentially provide players with in-game content worth more or less than the pack’s total worth – constituted a major violation of the Austrian Gaming Act.

As a result, Sony has been ordered to pay back €338.26 (AU $531) to players named in the lawsuit. According to VGC, the company has yet to respond to this decision, and it’s unknown if this minor case will contribute to more widespread change.

Read: Diablo Immortal has been banned in two countries

FIFA Ultimate Team packs have long been a point of contention for players worldwide, despite being part of the FIFA franchise since 2008. These card-based loot boxes allow players to assemble a team of football stars, with each pack contributing key players and other items.

Players are encouraged to continue purchasing packs to form the best possible team, but the randomness of FUT packs means there’s a high degree of chance involved in this process. Players can spend a significant amount of money before establishing their desired team.

While the decision to label FUT packs as ‘gambling’ took place in a minor court in Austria, the decision aligns with recent anti-loot box moves in Europe.

In 2020, a Netherlands court decided to fine FIFA publisher EA €500,000 (AU $786,000) for every week it sold loot boxes in FIFA Ultimate Team, as FUT packs were determined to constitute gambling, in violation of local law. Eventually, this decision was overturned – but the move has emboldened regulatory bodies.

In early 2022, Diablo Immortal was banned in Belgium and the Netherlands for its inclusion of aggressive loot boxes. Later in 2022, a number of European consumer groups, representing 18 individual countries, banded together to rally for the removal of ‘predatory’ loot boxes in games. Following this, a major UK study published recommendations that loot boxes should only be made available to players over the age of 18 years.

At this stage, the outcome of this concerted push, and the Austrian lawsuit, is unclear. At this stage, it appears major publishers have avoided dealing with strict rulings against gambling simply by ignoring rules. While individual countries in Europe continue to campaign for overall bans on loot boxes, they may be too far established now for major change to be impactful.

For now, it appears FIFA Ultimate Team packs will remain a staple of future video game releases – even as heat rises in Europe.

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.