Oh, Electronic Arts! The publisher that everyone loves to hate and then they go ahead and do things that everyone really hates. Of course, they provided a huge controversy in 2017 when they ‘soiled’ Star Wars Battlefront II with pay-to-win mechanics. The things is that they had been getting away with it for years with Ultimate Team mode in the FIFA franchise. Well, after they finally managed to offend nearly everyone by ruining Star Wars, people realised that these loot boxes were tantamount to gambling. Belgium was one of the first countries to legislate against loot boxes. EA were adament, though, that they were going to carry on with their offensive buisness practices and leave loot boxes in FIFA 19 despite it being illegal in Belgium.
Well, after the threat of legal action in the European country, Electronic Arts has finally announced that they will remove the option to buy FIFA points (which are used to purchase loot boxes) from FIFA 19. However, this is not a worldwide move. This change will only be for gamers in Belgium. Here’s the official announcement from EA –
“After further discussions with the Belgian authorities, we have decided to stop offering FIFA Points for sale in Belgium. We’re working to make these changes effective in our FIFA console and PC games by January 31, 2019. This means that players in Belgium will not be able to purchase points to obtain FIFA Ultimate Team packs. Players still can access Ultimate Team and play with their existing players. All content in the game can be earned through gameplay, as has always been the case, and players can continue to use coins and the in-game transfer market. Any players in Belgium that have existing FIFA Points in their accounts can continue to use them, but they will not be able to purchase more. We apologize to our players in Belgium for any inconvenience caused by this change.
We seek to bring choice, fairness, value and fun to our players in all our games. In addition to providing players options in how they play, we include pack probabilities in our games for the transparency players want to make informed content choices. While we are taking this action, we do not agree with Belgian authorities’ interpretation of the law, and we will continue to seek more clarity on the matter as we go forward. The impact of this change to FIFA Ultimate Team in Belgium is not material to our financial performance.”
While I do feel very happy for FIFA fans in Belgium, I also feel pretty bad for them. The problem is that although they’re no longer being preyed on by EA, they are going to be at a disadvantage to everyone else playing the game who can still pay to win. Electronic Arts have made a big thing about the fact that everything is still purchasable in-game by earning credits. The thing is, though, that they have made it a grind to earn those points so that people are enticed to spend real-world money on buying loot boxes. If they don’t rebalance the game for Belgian gamers (and let’s face it, it took them weeks to do it for Battlefront II, they’re not going to do it for the few thousand people this will affect) then they will be at a disadvantage.
Let’s just hope that more countries follow Belgium’s lead and we purge this horrible practice from the gaming industry!