Today we're paying our third visit to everyone's favourite FUT hot topic; FIFA coins selling. The Web and Mobile apps have shut up shop, but what does it mean for the community, FIFA 16 ULTIMATE TEAM, and beyond?
When it comes to the FUT coins selling saga much of the ground is already well trodden, especially by yours truly. FIFA Coins sellers are evil. Coin buyers slightly less so. YouTube personalities complicit and so on, and so on.
EA however have now for the second year running seemingly decided to admit defeat in their battle against bots and auto-buyers by closing their front facing web and mobile apps indefinitely for 'maintenance'. A lot of people have asked me 'when will they be back?' But would it be such a great loss if market trading via the web and mobile apps never came back at all?
That's how the coin sellers 'get in' to exploit the game after all, where they then directly impact performance and pricing for all of us. The action to permanently shut up shop would be classed as severe for sure, but perhaps EA are fed up of fighting a battle they plainly can't win? Maybe they feel that retreating to the relative safety of consoles is best for all parties, and it quite possibly is.
However, blaming coin selling for all of FUT's problems would be very closed minded indeed, so I'd like to take things right back to basics on coin selling with a simple question. Why do honest FIFA gamers want to buy illegal FUT coins? Because without any demand, there can be no supply regardless of whether online stores are open or closed.
The most obvious starting point is the value, or should I say the perceived value of EAs own FIFA Points. I don't actually have a problem with EAs pricing model per se, but what I do detest is the lack of 'value' you get as a gamer for your £80; twice the price of the actual game for the 'best' store deal.
Because packs are based entirely on luck and probability, the chances are (and personal experience confirms) that you can get almost nothing, except for a scattering of items worth maybe a quarter of your outlay. So when you can buy as an alternative one million FIFA coins outright for less than £80, and then hand pick the player(s) you want, parking legality for a second, it's a no brainer.
So let's make FIFA Points cheaper? Or reward more FIFA 16 coins for winning matches, right? Wrong. Printing more money only devalues and destabilises further what's already within the economy so neither are viable options. But what I do want to get back to if I may, is the perception of value in FUT and how it could be better.
For me, rewards from packs as well as being luck based (which they have to be) also need to be skill and achievement based. PES's My Club, may be light years behind FUT on all fronts, but one thing it does allow you to do is stack multiple 'Agents' which marginally increase your pack luck chances. You're still dancing with the devil but at least the odds are nudged slightly in your favour.
So to put that in a FUT context, say you get promoted in Seasons as the unbeaten Division Champion, you could as a bonus earn yourself a 2X chance token to be redeemed against one pack of your choice? You did your bit and played the game the way it should be played and FUT simply rewarded that performance with a small pat on the back. It's not a guarantee you'll get someone amazing, but it's something, and maybe that's enough.
Perhaps you could stack multiple 2X chance tokens, to increase the effect further and maybe FUT could even have some more compelling long term objectives which yield even greater rewards? Nobody wants 99 Ronaldo handed to them on a plate, they just want to feel that the games mechanics aren't actively conspiring to provide them with a negative experience.
I actually believe very strongly that no FIFA gamer wants to illegally buy FIFA 16 coins, I mean why would they? They only do so because they feel the games own systems don't serve them adequately when it comes to value and reward. But conversely my view is that it wouldn't take much from EA to shift that perception with only tweaks to the existing formula.
Part of what makes opening packs great though is their punishing unpredictability, because even after hours of disappointment packing that one special player, can change everything. For EA the challenge is how to bottle that special moment, and make it more frequent without destroying the foundations the game is built on. I've suggested one idea I'm sure you'll all have many more.
After coming out swinging with their three tier ban system just months ago, EA have found themselves once again holed up behind their high castle walls. And with the uprising quelled for now, the normal FIFA gamers are as always left waiting and wondering what will happen next. Will it be more draconian measures, or finally the promise of a better tomorrow?
If shutting the web and mobile stores is the silver bullet to coin selling then I say do it, but EA must understand that it is not the only issue at play here. Because in all honesty the 'value' of EA's own FIFA Points is by far the biggest elephant in the room and ironically its coin selling that has provided FIFA gamers with a way out, a pressure release of sorts for their contempt of FIFA Points.
So if coin selling does indeed die (and I dearly, dearly hope it does) and that admittedly illegal, but compelling consumer choice dies with it, without any kind of reform of EA's own FUT purchasing systems... Well, they may end up with a different kind of uprising entirely, one that can't be solved by hitting the off switch.