A leaked internal document from Electronic Arts seems to indicate the publisher is trying to push more players to embrace FIFA 21's loot boxes. The 54-page document is an internal presentation that was provided to Canada's CBC from a "gaming insider." According to the document, EA is "doing everything [it] can to drive players" towards FIFA Ultimate Team, or FUT. FUT is a mode where players build a team using cards, which they can acquire through paid card packs (loot boxes). While FUT is a separate mode, the presentation states that the company plans to "funnel players towards FUT from other modes."
In a second internal document provided to CBC, EA refers to currency earned in-game as "grind currency." While grinding tends to be a fairly common term in gaming, the man who leaked the documents claims its use shows EA is aware that the way players earn currency in the game is supposed to be a chore, in order to convince them to spend instead.
"'Grinding' in video games is slang for doing the same monotonous task over and over again to the point where it's no longer fun," the insider told CBC. "It seems like [EA games] are designed to be boring, to be a grind, and to encourage people of all ages to spend money on card packs."
The outlet has agreed not to share the leaker's identity for fear of retribution. This person claims that he and others in the industry are not comfortable with the use of loot boxes in games. Loot boxes have long been a source of controversy in the gaming industry, with some claiming that the practice is similar to gambling, and just as addictive. CBC reached out to EA for comment, and a spokesman claimed that the documents are being "viewed without context."
"All EA games can be played without spending on in-game items, and the majority of players do not spend," Charlie Fortescue told CBC in a statement.
This is not the first time that loot boxes have caused controversy for EA. In 2017, Star Wars Battlefront II released to heavy criticism when players discovered it gave those that spent more in the game a distinct advantage over those that didn't. This is an example of pay-to-win, and it was even more egregious, as players had already spent $60 on the game. The move received so much condemnation that EA completely changed the way that loot boxes worked in Battlefront II as a result.
It's impossible to say whether or not these documents will have a similar impact on EA's plans for FIFA 21. While most gamers won't be shocked to learn that EA is making efforts to steer more players towards in-game purchases, the insider was surprised by how blatant these documents are.
"For years … they've been able to act with a layer of plausible deniability," the insider told CBC. "Yet in their internal documents, they're saying, 'This is our goal. We want people driven to the card pack mode.'"
Do you purchase loot boxes or card packs in video games? Do you think that the practice is harmful for the video game industry? Let us know in the comments or share your thoughts directly on Twitter at @Marcdachamp to talk all things gaming!