EA is currently facing three lawsuits. The accusations refer to a kind of toxic circle, which the game developer has allegedly been generating consistently for years: Preprogrammed scenes are said to cause players to lose games in FIFA 21, for example, regardless of the level of their own skills. This gives numerous gamers the impression that their Ultimate Team is too weak and motivates them to invest more and more real money in their team.
According to the plaintiffs, this method has been used for many years, although EA consistently denies all accusations. The first lawsuit hit the U.S. company in August 2020, when a California lawyer filed a class action lawsuit from more than 100 parties. A broad lawsuit from Canada followed in October, and a month later, U.S. gamers again banded together to take Electronic Arts to court.
All three lawsuits are about gambling in combination with scripted scenes, which for example lead to conceded goals or missed great chances in FIFA 21, although the player did not make a mistake on the gamepad. In Belgium and the Netherlands, the mere fact that loot boxes available for real money existed in FIFA Ultimate Team mode led to a classification as gambling and a ban on said virtual card packs.
In terms of content, the focus is primarily on EA's sports simulations. In games such as FIFA or Madden, gamers put together their own team, an Ultimate Team, to compete against others. The team members come from Lootboxes, which can be bought with real money. No one is forced to invest in their Ultimate Team, but those who forgo the pay-to-win option significantly reduce their chances of winning.
Even if money is invested, the probability of strengthening your Ultimate Team in FIFA 21 with Cristiano Ronaldo is rather low. This is because said loot boxes contain random content, which is why drawing the strongest cards in the game is unlikely. Basically, according to the judges in Belgium and the Netherlands, opening a card pack in FIFA or Madden is not significantly different from gambling in a casino, purely from an emotional point of view.
The North American plaintiffs, however, go quite a bit further. The accusation is: EA uses Dynamic Difficulty Adjustment (DDA). This method strengthens weaker players and gives strong gamers a kind of handicap. While adjustments of this kind are made transparently in Nintendo's famous Mario Kart series, for example, by giving players placed in the back ranks strong items such as red tanks to shoot down those in front, EA's balancing is done in secret.
The game developer has always denied using DDA. Allegedly for a good reason: According to the assumptions of the disgruntled gamers, EA generates the impression that good players with a strong team have to improve significantly by using this method, because suddenly a lot of goals are conceded or scoring chances are no longer used. With FIFA (or Madden) Ultimate Team, for example, the conclusion often follows that you have to invest in new - even better and thus rarer - virtual athletes.
But why should EA take the risk of concealing a potential fraud? According to the content of the third lawsuit from November, because said scam is financially insanely profitable. For example, according to plaintiffs' interviews, top-level eSports players poured five-figure sums of Dollars into their FIFA 19 Ultimate Team to achieve success at the professional level.
According to the plaintiffs, the fact that EA holds several patents regarding different DDAs is another indication for the existence of programmed momentum. The game developer concealed this fact for several years, but had to admit to having said patents in 2019 after a leak. Two years ago, however, EA denied in the same breath that it uses DDA in FIFA.
Since the three court cases are still ongoing, we can only speculate about their outcome and the truth of the lawsuits. However, there seems to be a certain probability that EA's system of gambling and opaque game mechanics could still cost them dearly.
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