FIFA Ultimate Team Faces ‘Gambling or No Gambling’ Court Case1 month ago
FIFA 20 Ultimate Team, one of the most popular football video games, will come under scrutiny yet again, this time French courts set to decide whether their Ultimate Team packs should be classed as gambling or not – with a chunk of £850million in annual sales at risk.
At the heart of the legal battle, raised by two French lawyers, are the ‘Fut packs’, which may or may not include virtual versions of the world’s best footballers to bolster player’s team squads.
Already banned in the Netherlands and Belgium, but designated non-gambling by the UKGC, in-game rewards such as Fut packs have reportedly led to serious debts – one of the French complainants unable to pay his rent after spending so much on the bonus packs.
According to the Guardian newspaper, Mamadou, a 32-year old chauffeur has “spent €600 (£500) since FIFA 20 came out”.
However, rather than a world-class footballer such as Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo or Neymar Jr (the top 3 rated players in the FIFA 20 rankings) or Drogba, the unhappy driver’s best player from his costly packs was Kostas Manolas.
"I didn’t even know him!” said Mamadou of the Napoli and Greece international defender. “I put so much money in just to get Manolas. People I know have put in €2,000 or €3,000, it’s crazy. The amount I have spent has made me fall behind on my rent payments.”
The packs can be bought using in-game currency or real money, but there is no guarantee that buyers will get the players they need or want – thus the ‘gambling’ aspect that will go to the French courts.
Last year, the BBC reported that UK Gambling Commission chief executive Neil McCarthur told a government committee of "significant concerns" around children playing video games in which there were elements of expenditure and chance.
He added, however, that it did not represent gambling under the present laws, stating:
"There are other examples of things that look and feel like gambling that legislation tells you are not.” He added by way of example, “some prize competitions but because they have free play or free entry they are not gambling... but they are a lot like a lottery."
As far as French complainant Mamadou is concerned, however, it resembles gambling in all but name.
“You quickly become addicted to this game. Whenever I buy a pack, I tell myself that this is the last time, but I always do it again. You get so frustrated when you don’t get good enough players that you buy again and again.”
Fut packs are akin to Loot boxes available in other video games such as Overwatch, Gears of War 4, and Stars Wars Battlefront 2 – the latter another game by the same Electronic Arts games publisher as FIFA 20.
A recent research study linked the loot boxes to problem gambling.
The joint report from Dr David Zendle of York St John University and Dr Paul Cairns of the University of York stated:
“Our research suggests that loot boxes either literally cause problem gambling; or, alternatively, allow games companies to exploit serious gambling problems amongst their customers for massive monetary gain.”
Poker hasn’t been completely immune to the emergence of these in-game rewards, PokerStars introducing their Chests rewards as a replacement for rakeback a few years ago.
The rewards became not only random, but generally smaller, and favouring net depositors rather than winning players.
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