US publishing giant Electronic Arts has come out to clarify some of the content in leaked FIFA 21 marketing documents.
These were provided to CBC, which reported that EA wanted to drive players to spend money on Ultimate Team, with the goal of apparently getting them to spend money on loot boxes. The marketing documents – marked as "privileged and confidential" – say that the aim is to incentivise players to "convert" and that it was doing "everything we can to drive players" to Ultimate Team.
One insider said that this laid bare EA's desire to have more people spending money on loot boxes.
"For years … they've been able to act with a layer of plausible deniability," they said. "Yet in their internal documents, they're saying" 'This is our goal. We want people driven to the card pack mode.'"
Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz, VP of the FIFA brand David Jackson says that the line about incentivising conversion was in fact a reference to moving people from FIFA 20 to FIFA 21.
"Realistically, Ultimate Team is the most engaged mode that we have," he said.
"It is also the mode that is updated most regularly with the latest and greatest content. Engagement is the No.1 success metric that we have as a company. If we want players to play, that is the place where we want them to experience and receive the ability to engage with the latest content. Especially in the summer months. We're a football title, so in-between football seasons, there isn't a huge amount of real-world interactivity that we can create. But we can create that engagement in Ultimate Team. And that is the reason why we like players to be playing and engaging during that bridge period between cycles. It's not about monetisation, it's about engagement for players."
He continued: "In that summer period where the engagement rolls out from one game to the next, we want players to be engaged with the content and the real-world of football -- so summer transfers. If you google it, Summer Heat was a programme that we ran between 20 and 21, which celebrated the summer and celebrated the fact that was when transfers happened in the real world of football. And if you wanted to engage with that content, Ultimate Team was the place where we held that new content."
EA is one of many companies that has come under increased scrutiny over its use of loot boxes since the end of 2017. The firm is facing multiple class-action lawsuits related to the business model, in addition to being fined millions in the Netherlands over FIFA loot boxes.
Former EA exec Peter Moore said earlier this year that he doesn't think FIFA Ultimate Team constituted gambling, but said he understood the scrutiny it faced.
The documents also reveal that FIFA has more than 5.3 million daily active users, over three million of which are playing Ultimate Team.