The recent banning of loot boxes in Belgium and the Netherlands has caused the FIFA community to wonder whether changes could be coming to Ultimate Team next season – but Andrew Wilson, CEO of the publishing giant, says it's business as usual as its Canadian arm gears up for the release of FIFA 19.
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“We’re going to continue pushing forward [with Ultimate Team],” he said in a conference call with industry analysts. “We’re always thinking about our players. We’re always thinking about how to deliver these types of experiences in a transparent, fun, fair, and balanced way for our players — and we’ll continue to work with regulators on that.”
Then the words which, rightly or wrongly, will send critics flailing to the floor like a Premier League winger who’s just been breathed on in the penalty box. “We’re working with all of the industry associations globally and with regulators in certain regions and territories,” Wilson continues. “Many of [the regulators] we’ve been working with for a long time, and they have evaluated and established that programs like FIFA Ultimate Team are not gambling.”
This is a controversial viewpoint, with fans known to spend thousands of pounds/dollars per season chasing in-form Messi and ‘TOTS’ Ronaldo, never knowing the odds of finding such megastars in one of the mode’s digital packs. (‘Pretty terrible’ is the consensus, which is why you should never buy gold packs, as explained in GR’s guide to making Ultimate Team coins.)
Wilson does offer an explanation for why EA disagrees with the claim that Ultimate Team should be classed as gambling: “First, players always receive a specified number of items in every FUT pack. Second, we don’t provide or authorise any way to cash out digital items or virtual currency for real-world money. And there’s no real-world value assigned to in-game items.”
There was no official response to the threat of next year’s edition being banned in Belgium, after FIFA 18 was found to be one of three games that contravened the country’s gambling laws, along with Overwatch and Counter Strike: Global Offensive. In April, minister of justice Koen Geens threatened those who failed to remove loot boxes from their games with a fine of up to €800,000, and five years in prison.
It’ll be fascinating to see whether that means FIFA 19 emerges in Belgium with Ultimate Team removed, or indeed is taken off the country's release schedules. Expect this story to run well into next season.
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