EA Sports/Goal composite
Allegations about the apparent illicit sale of rare FUT cards has rocked the FIFA gaming community
FIFA Ultimate Team is a remarkably lucrative aspect of EA Sports’ FIFA franchise, with the game mode bringing in billions in revenue for the gaming industry giant.
As well as being able to earn coins by playing matches, FUT gamers can also spend real money on the game to buy packs containing a selection of player cards.
It is now the most popular mode in FIFA games, showing incredible growth since it was first introduced in FIFA 09, but FIFA Ultimate Team has been rocked by the ‘EA Gate’ scandal in 2021.
So, what exactly is ‘EA Gate’? Goal takes a look at the details and the reaction in the FIFA community.
What is #EAGate?
‘EA Gate’ describes a series of allegations that individuals have been selling rare FIFA Ultimate Team items, such as rare Icon cards, on the black market to anyone who is willing to pay for them.
The allegations surfaced online at the beginning of March, with a number of screenshots and videos appearing to show the practice being shared widely on social media platforms such as Twitter.
Essentially, the pictures and commentary circulating online suggest that cards which were otherwise ‘extinct’ (i.e. unavailable for FUT players to buy or get) are being sold for significant fees.
Prices being quoted for cards ranges from €750 to €1,000 (£640 – £855 / $890 – $1,190), with other screenshots showing the cost going up to €1,700 (£1455 / $2,000).
With the FIFA community ablaze with speculation regarding the allegations and the hashtag #EAGate trending, EA Sports promptly sought to reassure, promising an investigation into the apparent scandal.
What has EA Sports said?
EA released a statement on the matter of ‘EA Gate’ on March 10 and the company indicated that a “thorough investigation” had been initiated and that “swift action” would be taken if the allegations were true.
The EA statement said: “We are aware of the allegations currently circulating within our community related to FIFA 21 Ultimate Team items.
“A thorough investigation is underway, and if we identify improper conduct, we will take swift action.
“We want to be clear – this type of behaviour is unacceptable, and we in no way condone what is alleged to have happened here.
“We understand how this creates concern about unfair balance in the game and competition. We will update the community as we get more clarity on the situation.”
— EA SPORTS FIFA (@EASPORTSFIFA) March 10, 2021
What have streamers & gamers said about ‘EA Gate’?
Reaction from Twitch streamers, content creators and professional FIFA players has largely been one of disappointment, with many expressing sympathies with players who have invested time and money into FUT.
“I truly feel bad for people who have put thousands of dollars into FIFA points or thousands of hours into grinding the game,” Twitch streamer ‘Nick28T’ said on his YouTube channel.
“To not be able to get a single one of these players when someone who has a bit of money or just has the knowledge that this is even possible can basically go over to a WhatsApp group or rogue.”
YouTuber Matt Craig, who plays under the name ‘MattHDGamer’, said that it was “shocking” and that it “looked terrible”.
“It’s a slap in the face to anyone who grinds FIFA,” Craig said in a video posted on his YouTube channel, which has over two million subscribers.
“You guys know me, I sometimes talk too long… even I am lost for words at this. This is insane. [It is] the most shocking thing I have seen on Ultimate Team in the last few years.”
Ultimately this is a really sad day for FUT. I hope this sparks change for a better, more fair, more rewarding game.
— NepentheZ (@NepentheZ) March 10, 2021
While there is understandable anger and shock among the community, some have suggested that the Ultimate Team model, whereby certain cards are practically unattainable, is to blame.
“Ultimately this is a really sad day for FUT,” content creator NepentheZ said in a message posted to his 940,000 followers on Twitter. “I hope this sparks change for a better, more fair, more rewarding game.”
EA Game Changer partner Karasuno Mav, whose handle is ‘MavricPlays’, was particularly critical of EA in a video posted on Twitter.
“EA, I know you’re not going to want to hear this and I’m a Game Changer, but this is your fault,” he said. “This is all on you, because you’ve made Icons and the cards that people want completely unobtainable.”
— Karasuno Mav (@MavricPlays) March 10, 2021
Which FIFA Ultimate Team cards are being sold?
The cards that are allegedly being sold are those that are considered the rarest and most difficult – or, as the case may be, impossible – to get in a pack.
For example, Prime Icon Moment (PIM) cards, which are invariably the highest-rated version of an Icon, are apparently being advertised by the black market sellers.
The PIM card for Brazil hero Ronaldo – affectionately known as R9 in the FIFA community – as well as other legendary figures such as Ruud Gullit, Pele and Ronaldinho have featured in screenshots.
These cards have ratings in the high 90s, which means that they are very strong players to have in a team.
Is this the first FIFA Ultimate Team scandal?
FIFA Ultimate Team has come under scrutiny on a number of occasions since its inception and EA Sports has been criticised for the ‘loot box’ element of the game mode.
Packs can be bought using FIFA coins – currency earned through in-game actions, such as playing matches - or using EA Points, which can be purchased with real money.
Pack odds are now available for players to see, so that they can understand the chances of them landing a certain player, but the fact is, the more packs you buy, the greater the likelihood of getting a rare card.
Authorities in Belgium have declared that ‘loot boxes’ – i.e. paying money for a set of random in-game items – constituted a form of unregulated gambling.
While EA Sports disagreed with the Belgian authorities’ interpretation of the law, it altered its policy so that players in Belgium could only buy packs and so forth using coins earned in the game itself.
The nature of FUT packs and the so-called ‘pay-to-win’ culture has also been debated in the UK parliament, with some politicians calling on companies such as EA Sports to do more to protect players.