FIFA Ultimate Team as we know it appears to be under threat in the United Kingdom, with the UK Government discussing the possibility of classifying FUT packs – and other loot box items – as a form of online gambling.
Loots box systems have proven to be a lightning rod in the United Kingdom, and in other European countries, for quite some time. Decisions have even been taken in Belgium and Holland to have them banned in many titles, such as Overwatch, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and others.
For EA SPORTS, it's clear that FUT is their most prized asset, with a 40 percent increase in net revenues since 2019 for the game mode alone. According to figures from the company's H1 financial report for 2020, net revenue reached a whopping $716 million. In relation to the FIFA franchise, these sales come primarily through FIFA points, which can be bought with cash online and spent on FUT packs in-game, where the buyer has no way of knowing what will be included in their rewards.
Long has there been a debate about the impact this behavior can have on young children, with the game rating of E in the United States (available to everyone), and in the UK it's rated for ages 3 and above.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport has announced that there will be a cross-party meeting to consider evidence to support claims that children are being encouraged to gamble, with the case being made that this behavior can lead to addiction in later life.
As reported by The Guardian, Labour MP Carolyn Harris said: “They are a virtually speculative commodity that only help to normalise and encourage young people to take a chance. All too often this will lead to youngsters developing an addiction to gambling.”
Should that decision be approved, the way people play Ultimate Team in the country would change forever, with the FUT pack system either needing a heavy rework or being totally scrapped for good.
It's worth noting that not all packs need to be bought with physical money in FIFA 20, with Squid Building Challenges and in-game match rewards available for players to rack up, such as that of each season. This is a new battle pass system, where objectives are completed for free bonus content.
That being said, there can be no doubt that purchasing a good amount of FUT packs will improve chances of succeeding in competitive play, with Club Owners taking to the pitch with star-studded sides each weekend for FUT Champs. It's highly unlikely that, at least to reach the very top, that you can achieve that without significant investment in the loot box system.
Back in September 2019, just after FIFA 20 launched, pro player Ivan 'BorasLegend' Lapanje revealed that he had spent around $1,700 on FIFA Points to get an advantage over "heavy spenders" online.
He said: "I have loaded up with 204,000 FIFA points (1700$). This contribution will put me in an early advantage vs some players and reduce the disadvantage vs heavy spenders. I wish it wasn't like this, just wanted to be transparent."
Whether or not Ultimate Team will be forced to change in the UK in the future remains to be seen, but it does appear as if dialogue on possible links to gambling won't be going away any time soon.