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Leaked EA document says FIFA 21 is driving people to loot boxes

Presentation deck says "FUT is the cornerstone and we are doing everything we can to drive players there"; publisher says that's taken out of context

An Electronic Arts internal document regarding FIFA 21 that was leaked to the CBC has explicitly stated the publisher's goal of pushing players toward its loot box-driven FIFA Ultimate Team game mode.

The 54-page document, which was provided to the news outlet by a "gaming insider," addresses the game's performance so far and lays out the publisher's plans going forward.

On a page of the document titled "Five Things You Need to Know," the third point emphasizes that players will be "incentivized to convert" throughout the summer, while the fourth point states "FUT is the cornerstone and we are doing everything we can to drive players there."

In another page titled "Turning Up the Heat," the company says "All roads lead to FUT" and lays out a strategy to "drive excitement and funnel players towards FUT from other modes."

The insider said he took the document to the press in light of research linking loot boxes to gambling, proceedings in various markets around regulating loot boxes as gambling, and numerous lawsuits over the practice.

"For years ... they've been able to act with a layer of plausible deniability," the insider told the CBC. "Yet in their internal documents, they're saying, 'This is our goal. We want people driven to the card pack mode.'"

He added, "I don't know why anyone would ever put that in print at the company. It's getting harder and harder to defend what is very obviously unregulated gambling."

An EA representative told the CBC the document was being "viewed without context," adding that interpretations of what it was saying "are misinformed." CBC says the representative didn't respond to a request to clarify those assertions.

EA's attempts to push people towards its Ultimate Team loot box modes have drawn criticism before. In September, the company placed a FIFA 21 ad in an in-store magazine at UK retailer Smyths Toys encouraging using virtual currency to open packs, the game's term for loot boxes.

The publisher pulled the ad, stated it should not have been advertising FIFA Points in that environment, and pledged to review its ad strategy "to ensure each of our marketing efforts better reflects the responsibility we take for the experience of our younger players."

In 2020, EA reported Ultimate Team modes represented 27% of its total revenues, or about $1.5 billion.

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