Are EA Killing Their Sports Games With Microtransactions?

Are EA Killing Their Sports Games With Microtransactions?

Microtransactions are becoming commonplace in a lot of videogames in recent years. They were once a key feature in most free-to-play games, but now they’re making their way into retail releases. Microtransactions have the ability to support or break a game, and it’s purely down to how they are handled that determines which side the swinging pendulum falls upon. The difference between how free-to-play and retail games offer microtransactions is that an initial investment is usually required. Retail games with microtransactions represent a potentially huge problem, especially if said game has a large focus on multiplayer. In that vein, enter Fifa 14.

The Fifa games on the whole have been improving year to year, with variations in how big/small the improvements are. Ultimate Team is undoubtedly the biggest addition to the franchise, spawning almost an exclusive player base that doesn’t even bother with the other modes Fifa has to offer. Playing matches to earn coins–which are then used to buy packs, which contain players–in order to improve your squad is highly engrossing, and was an open playing field for a long time. The problem, however, is that EA has seen the money to be made from the mode and wondered what would happen if players could buy packs with real money. A shortcut to success? That’s exactly what has happened, and thus Fifa points were born.

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Fifa points have created a huge gulf in terms of players and their squads within Fifa 14‘s version of Ultimate Team. Players who choose to spend money on Fifa points are limited purely by the size of their wallet, greatly increasing their odds of building a top-class team with minimal effort. Consequently, this creates a divide between players as those who wish to play the game more traditionally are put at a severe disadvantage.

EA have gone as far as to offer various deals in which packs are reduced in price when using Fifa points (see the Fifa season pass). This supports the ‘pay to win’ method even further. An easy retort to this issue would be to buy Fifa points or put up with them, but this would also be sheer ignorance of the problem at hand. EA is selling a game at £40+ and almost instantly destroying any sense of a balanced field of play via their Fifa points option. Fifa Ultimate Team has simply become a matter of who is willing to spend the most amount of money on the game in order to succeed.

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Is there any way EA could salvage the situation? Of course there is, but EA is a business and money is their master. Imposing a weekly cap on how many Fifa points a player can purchase could reduce the gap between normal and paying players. Making coins easier to earn, and not the dull grind it is now, could also be an option. The chances that EA will try to fix the situation, however, are slim to none, but one must still hope.

Given how more focus is placed on Ultimate Team with each entry in the Fifa franchise, it’s highly possible that EA could kill one of its biggest franchises through sheer greed, or at the very least create the first retail game in which the core mutliplayer is about the size of the player’s wallet.

Sean Halliday


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