In FIFA, as so many fans of EA’s all-conquering football series know, you can buy FIFA Coins with real world money. And with those FIFA Coins you can buy packs of cards for use in FIFA Ultimate Team, the series’ most popular mode and the one that makes EA so many millions of dollars each financial quarter. Pay your money, buy a pack and roll the dice. Will I pack Ronaldo? Or Messi? Or an in-form? There’s only one way to find out.
I’m a big FIFA fan and I have a confession to make: I love opening packs. There’s a thrill to it. Maybe this time I’ll get a walk out! My mind dares to dream in the tantalising moments before I press the buy now button. I know I’m being played here. I know the house always wins. But I can’t help but grind for more FUT Coins, the in-game currency you can use to buy packs, then, when I’ve enough, roll the dice once again. Rinse. Repeat. Better luck next time, mate.
I’ve yet to spend real world money on FIFA Coins since FIFA 18 came out, but I have teetered on the edge, usually at night while my wife and toddler sleep. They won’t know, I smirk. I’ll pay with my account, not the joint. Thankfully, FIFA 18, with its dad friendly Squad Battles mode, dishes out FUT Coins and card packs in a, well, I wouldn’t call it a generous fashion, but I’ve so far done well enough to have an 80-rated team with limited play time. The thing is, I want better players and a better team. I will always want better players and a better team. There is no end in sight. I realise this. And yet I live for each inch I crawl forward in the pursuit of the perfect Ultimate Team.
As the debate about loot boxes and gambling rages, I can’t help but wonder about Ultimate Team. Are buying card packs gambling? I go back and forth on the answer. Sometimes I think, well, it’s just like buying football stickers. Of course it’s not gambling. Then, usually when I’m desperate for one more hit, I find myself convinced it is.
The problem is, these prizes – or in FIFA’s case, cards – are not successfully restricted for use solely within FIFA 18. You can, quite easily, cash out.
There are a raft of websites, some of which look pretty slick and even have narrated tutorial videos, that will buy your FUT coins off you for real-world money. These websites ensure everything involved in your standard Ultimate Team card pack transaction has a real world value, albeit indirectly. Say you get a player you don’t want. Successfully sell him on the official, in-game auction house for FUT coins. Then, you can sell those FUT coins on a third-party website for cash. So, the virtual card has an indirect real-world value. It might not be much, but it’s there.