The grand occasion when you opened the FIFA Ultimate Team Pack was a fascinating spectacle. Bright colors, dramatic, if you are lucky and get a special card, then strikes, fireworks and confetti are raining down. Open the FUT backpack to create a carnival atmosphere.
Since the debut of FIFA 09, FUT has become a core part of the gaming experience.When it was launched, 1 million players used the service. In May 2021, EA announced in an interview that the number of FIFA 21 had risen to 30 million European players.
Millions of players are forming their dream teams. Ronaldinho is paired with Kylian Mbappé or Dennis Bergkamp and Robert Lewandowski. But this is largely when players start to see the gains.
The path to the best player requires one of two things: time or money. Even so, after investing in these two points, there is still a certain element of luck for players to log in to complete the team.
This model has been censored for symbolizing the “loot box” system in games: A is shown in the ongoing debate between players, publishers, and regulators over exploitative monetization of games. The debate around FUT will become particularly fierce, because although EA may say that it does not want kids to spend money on FIFA, anyone who deals with football-avid teenagers knows they did.
In 2018, Belgium banned loot boxes and classified them as gambleIronically, with the release of the game “Star Wars Battlefront II” released by EA. The Belgian member of parliament announced that users under the age of 18 will be prohibited from making in-game purchases if the player only knows the content after the purchase. In 2020, the Netherlands imposed a fine of 10 million euros on EA for violating the country’s gambling laws. Both of these decisions diverged in a subtle debate.
“When you are afraid of anything or something new, such as a loot box, and you don’t like it, you ban it,” said clinician and video game researcher Dr. Anthony Bean. “I think Belgium banned them prematurely. This will not solve the problem, you are just trying to take an authoritarian view of it, rather than being able to understand the reasons for it and better regulate it.”
In the UK, loot boxes are not classified as gambling. However, a survey initiated by the Ministry of Digital, Culture, Media and Sports in 2019 is evaluating whether this situation should remain the same. The government commissioned Abertay University to evaluate the evidence obtained in June 2020. Hope to release the report before the end of this year.
Gambling or player choice?
Regardless of the position of banning loot boxes, it has sparked a debate about whether putting them in the game is a form of gambling or whether they represent player choice.
“Consumption in our game is completely optional. Players can get rewards through the game to open the FUT package, which is how most people choose to do this-more than three-quarters of FIFA 21 players do not spend in the game , The 9/10 FUT package opened in FIFA 21 is earned, not bought,” EA’s Chris Bruzzo said in a statement.
“I don’t think there is enough evidence that loot boxes are similar to gambling,” research psychologist Dr. Rachel Kowert told PC Gamer when asked about the ban. According to Dr. Kowert, if the game can be played without spending extra money to open the loot boxes, and the option is for the user to buy them, then the problem enters a more obscure area. If the realization of the loot box plays a role in the game and becomes unbalanced, for example, players encounter a large gap in the quality of their items, then this will cast a shadow over the debate.
“I agree that this is the player’s choice,” Dr. Kowert said. “But if the loot box item gives someone an advantage in the game-you get a good gun or a good player-and I don’t have it, now you beat me because of it… That will attract players’ desire.” Their player choices will be affected because players really want to keep opening loot boxes until they get something similar. “
This is the view of Dr. Bean. He believes that although players can choose, there are subtle psychological mechanisms that affect decision-making, so they may contain gambling elements.
“I am not the biggest fan of loot boxes,” Dr. Bean said. “I don’t think they are beneficial because they are a form of variable reinforcement.”
Variable reinforcement is a mechanism that changes the reward of a given action, making the desired outcome unpredictable.
“Variable reinforcement tells you that at some point you will get this good thing, so it will let you continue to buy them,” Dr. Bean continued. “This is where gambling comes into play. It allows people to continue to spend money.”
These systems now seem to be deeply entrenched in video games, and as the market has become one of the largest in the entertainment industry over the past decade, loot boxes may be seen as a new problem. But Dr. Kovot objected to this, saying it was just an old method repackaged in a digital skin and therefore had nothing to do with gambling.
“This kind of reinforcement has been around for a long time. Pokémon cards, baseball cards, Kinder Surprise, and loot boxes all operate in the same mental mechanism. You may get what you want, you may get something you don’t want. Something, but either “the way you get something.” Now the fact is that it is really good or not, this is the driving force for us to move forward. “
This argument does not please Dr. Bean, mainly because of the volatile nature of random projects.
“I think they do have a gambling side,” he said. “Gambling itself is regulated because people know the harm it can cause-although there are ways to solve it. It’s some kind of roulette. Yes, you get something out of it, but it only makes you feel better . It’s like giving you 1 dollar and getting something worth 20 cents. It’s based on the fact that your 1 dollar might get you back at 20 dollars. I think this is still a gambling.”
Although Dr. Kovot prefers the argument that loot boxes are not gambling, she also believes that video game companies can do more to make certain mechanisms transparent.
“Are they morally murky? Maybe. This mechanism really attracts us-huge rewards are sporadic-we want to keep buying and see the rewards. This is an alluring mechanism in the game, their The purpose of the design is to be attractive.”
These mechanisms cause players to spend hundreds or even thousands of pounds to buy game packs to get the best player in the game. A quick Google search will throw up a lot of news reports about household bank accounts being emptied, increasing debt, and trying to recover some of the lost funds.
“Our prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for decision-making, is not fully formed until around the age of 25,” Dr. Kowert explained. “So in theory, in the sense that there is not so much self-regulation, people under that age will be more vulnerable.”
A lot of fear revolves around children spending money, sometimes unknowingly, to obtain game currency, and then spend it on FIFA points. Dr. Bean said that what he sees from his patients is that the difference is not so simple and boring.
“Children who understand money and the concept of money are unlikely to be affected by this. But if a child doesn’t understand money, it may take months or years to understand how money works. Some kids don’t understand this. I I would say that it is likely to take advantage of this mentality.”
“Very few people are willing to wait for anything, but I think the fact that you can work hard to get a backpack and players is the key,” Kovot retorted. “It’s the player’s choice. How long I can practice, or I can choose to pay for it.”
EA does admit that they need toThe real solution“In an interview with Eurogamer, in order to prevent players from overspending on loot boxes in all games. Part of the solution is to provide a “preview package” that allows players to view specific items inside before deciding whether to continue buying, using in-game coins or FIFA points.
Another element that EA is keen to emphasize, especially from the perspective of children playing games and parents not understanding them, is about education and available information.
“We also want all our players to have a positive experience, which is why we want to provide players and parents with as much information and control as possible,” Bruzzo said in a statement to PC Gamer. “For example, last year we launched FIFA Playtime, which is a dashboard that allows players to know the time they played, the packages they opened and the points they bought. At the same time, this year we launched a new event related to Internet Matters to Help parents and caregivers ensure that children play video games responsibly by raising awareness of the powerful parental control tools available.”
The debate about FUT packages is complex, and even psychologists cannot agree on how the use of such technologies in video games affects player behavior. As we all know, there are gambling elements in such systems, which affect players’ choices, but there is no consensus on conflating loot boxes with what we call “real money” gambling. But don’t get me wrong: there is also a huge influx of real money in these systems.The recent government crackdown has not prevented EA from accumulating £1.18 billion through its various ultimate team models (including the NFL video game franchise Madden and the NHL series), of which “a large part” comes from FIFA’s ultimate team model, according to reports EA’s most recent financial report.
EA tries to limit overspending through various measures (such as preview packages), but this manipulation at the edge of the system will not slow down the large amount of money invested in the game mode. Due to the lack of scientific consensus, various regulatory agencies are even scrambling to define countless loot box systems, let alone legislating around them. This gravy train will continue to advance in the next few years.