Good news, everyone! Loot boxes, I mean “surprise mechanics,” don’t exist to make money, they exist to drive player engagement! Whew!
That was Electronic Arts’ response to a document leaked to CBC over the weekend from a “gaming insider” that came from a Canadian branch of the company that works on the FIFA series. It called the loot box (a.k.a. player pack)-heavy FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT) the “cornerstone” of the game, with a bullet point stating that “We are doing everything we can to drive players there.” Another bullet point said that “All roads lead to FUT.”
Naturally, this has brought out the torches and pitchforks (again), and even more naturally, EA is trying to downplay the furor (again). CBC initially said that an EA spokesperson declined to comment, saying only that the document was “viewed without context” and “misinformed” without explaining why.
FIFA VP of brand David Jackson later spoke to GamesIndustry.biz, saying that the document was related to a specific campaign that ran last summer. He went on to say that:
“It’s important to say that we never push people to spend money in the game. We do encourage engagement in the game, and every single item that you’d like to engage with in that mode can be engaged with for free. Play is the No.1 success metric, it’s not about incentivising people to spend.”
That would seem to stand in sharp contrast to the document stating that EA is “doing everything” to drive players to FUT, where “all roads lead to.” Yes, you can play FUT without paying, but EA knows that encouraging people to play encourages them to spend money — in some cases, obscene amounts of it.
And that’s why it’s likely this revelation won’t change anything. As I searched through our archives for articles with “FIFA” in the title to potentially link back to, I found this editorial I wrote way back in October 2013. The last paragraph still rings true, as I said, “If gamers keep paying for their F2P offerings, EA will keep making them available.”
FIFA Ultimate Team makes gobs of money for EA, and any company with barely competent leadership — which, say what you will about EA, it has that at least — will smartly try and steer people toward its moneymaker. The people who are most enraged about this latest episode of doubletalk, like you and I, likely aren’t the ones spending money on FUT. EA won’t change its ways until the people spending thousands a month change theirs — unless legislation hits them in the pocketbook first, as it has in some countries.