EA SPORTS has been hit with a new United States federal lawsuit, which alleges Electronic Arts “unlawfully increases game difficulty” — dubbed ‘scripting’ by a number of FIFA 21 fans — in a deliberate effort to sell more Ultimate Team packs.
The lawsuit, Zajonc v. Electronic Arts, was brought to Californian court by three FIFA 21 gamers, Jason Zajnoc, Danyael Williams, and Pranko Lozano. In the suit, they claimed EA SPORTS uses “deceptive practices” and “false advertising” to drive sales in their FUT mode.
The lawsuit suggests EA willingly and “unlawfully” tricks FIFA players into buying Ultimate Team loot boxes by “utilizing artificial intelligence technologies that adjust game difficulty dynamically.” As mentioned, this is known as ‘scripting’ by fans.
The main charge laid by the plaintiffs is based around EA’s failure to alert FIFA 21 customers about ‘scripting’ features, which are having a direct impact on matches.
“Unbeknownst to most… EA utilizes technologies like ‘Dynamic Difficulty Adjustment’ and ‘Adaptive Difficulty.’ These technologies use heuristic prediction and intervention to dictate or even influence outcomes, thereby keeping gamers more engaged,” the suit, filed in November, reads.
These features, DDA and AD, are designed to adjust player stat points — both on the front of the card, and in-game — in an effort to influence the result. This can lead to bad passes, poor shots, and wildly varying pace for FIFA players.
All of this, the plaintiffs allege, is designed to do one thing: sell more FIFA 21 Ultimate Team packs, dubbed “loot boxes” in similar cases. “This [triggers] a self-perpetuating cycle,” the complaint charges, “leading them to purchase additional player packs in hopes of receiving better players and being more competitive.”
According to the plaintiffs, EA SPORTS has violated Californian consumer protection laws, has conducted false advertising and unjust enrichment through their practices.
The case, which has not yet been certified as a class action, also regards EA’s other juggernaut franchises, including Madden and NHL. The NFL and hockey titles are two more games in EA’s stables that utilize an ‘Ultimate Team’ mode.
EA has responded to the Zajonc v. Electronic Arts lawsuit. The FIFA 21 publishers wrote, “We believe the claims are baseless and misrepresent our games.”
This is far from the first time EA SPORTS has come under fire for Ultimate Team packs either. The publishers have been accused of operating an “illegal” gambling system in Canada, and are facing $11.7m worth of fines in the Netherlands and France for similar reasons.
Earlier this year, EA hit an “all-time high” in FIFA microtransactions. The company made nearly $1 billion through in-game sales alone in Sep-Dec 2019. A slice of this was then used to lure David Beckham into an exclusive £40m rights deal.