Accusations Of EA Employee Side-Selling 'FIFA' Rare In-Game Items Is A Problem If True

from the side-hustle dept

With so many online video games moving to models that involve selling rare items or other aspects of gameplay after the purchase of a game, it's worth noting that this concept of selling manufactured rarity isn't exactly new. In fact, one notable analogue version of this can be found in the trading card industry. And if you're looking for parallels of danger, the baseball trading card industry has that covered specifically.

A brief history lesson. While baseball cards have made something of a comeback recently, especially due to expanded trading and collecting avenues created by the internet, the industry also quite famously tanked in the '90s.

That trend has reversed in the last few years. While the baseball card industry fell from domestic sales of $1 billion in the '80s and early '90s to $200 million in 2012, Leiner says that it's now bounced back to the strongest position that it's had in two decades (though he declined to share Topps' sales numbers). That isn’t just from breaking—sales have also increased in other forms of online retail, as well as at big-box stores like Target and Walmart.

So what happened in the early '90s to tank the industry? There is more than one answer. The labor lockout of 1990 certainly hurt the trading card business. Baseball's decline as the focal national pastime contributed to it as well. But then there is also the legend of the Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card. Upper Deck quite famously made Griffey Jr. its #1 card in the 1989 set, despite him having never played a game. The other major players, such as Topps, didn't have a rookie card for him that year. There was an insane fervor around getting that rookie card when the set came out, even as it turned out to not be a particularly rare card. One explanation for the lack of rarirty is a matter of printing techniques.

Despite the popularity of the Griffey card, it was not a scarce card. The card was situated in the top left hand corner of the uncut sheets and was more liable to be cut poorly or have its corners dinged. Company policy was that if a customer found a damaged card in its package, the company would replace it.[25] Many Griffey cards were returned and the result was that Upper Deck printed many uncut sheets (sheets consisting of 100 cards) of just the Griffey card.[25] According to Professional Sports Authenticator, the Ken Griffey, Jr. would become the most graded card of all time with the company.

But there have long been rumors that something else happened. Some have suggested that those running Upper Deck's presses actually purposefully produced extra Griffey Jr. rookie cards when they were highly sought after, seeing it as a way to essentially print money. Whatever the truth, the market was flooded with this sought after card, the value of the card plummeted as a result, and a whole bunch of collectors got very angry and turned off from collecting baseball cards. Coupled with the other factors, the industry contracted to something like a quarter of its previous revenue.

Which brings us to EA Sports and accusations that at least one employee has been selling rare FIFA assets for money.

Using the hashtag #EAGATE, complaints have been made that someone within EA has been selling FIFA’s Prime Icon Moment players for huge sums of cash, like €1000 (USD$1190) for two players.

That’s a lot of money, but there are people out there who both take FIFA very seriously and spend thousands on Ultimate Team packs just trying to unlock elite players, so to be able to cut out the random factor and get the best players directly isn’t as terrible a deal as it may sound to you.

When the complaints first surfaced, it was hard to parse which were legitimate and which were just...the same white noise the FIFA community is always capable of producing when it comes to its uneasy relationship with developer EA Sports.

You could write this all off as rumor, but there is some pretty convincing evidence floating around the internet.

If you can't see the embedded tweet, it shows images that purport to be direct solicitation of rare player cards for large sums of money. And that brings us back to the lessons learned from the baseball industry: this sort of thing can destroy not only the marketplace for a single game, but for the industry as a whole.

EA says its investigating and it needs to be very transparent as to the results of that investigation. The entire part of the gaming industry that revolves around buying packs trying to get rare items only works if there is trust from the public that all of this is on the up and up. The moment that the public no longer believes in the system, it collapses. And eroding trust in a major player in this industry, such as EA Sports, is going to have a spillover effect to other publishers and studios.

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Filed Under: fifa, in game assets, insider selling
Companies: ea


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  • icon
    Bloof (profile), 12 Mar 2021 @ 2:30pm

    Cue EA 'solving' the problem of their own creation by offering a diamond edition for $500 a pop, a thousand bucks cheaper than buying them from employees and likely ten thousand cheaper than getting them from lootboxes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2021 @ 5:16pm

      Re:

      My bet's on this problem quietly disappearing for 6-9 months until a hack exposes that this guy was doing it with the full knowledge and enthusiastic consent of EA.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 12 Mar 2021 @ 2:41pm

    Upper Deck printing massive numbers of cards??? Say it isn't so....
    See also: Komani v Upper Deck where someone printed unauthorized cards to line their pockets & that went over really well...

    First they were worried about states trying to call them a form of gambling, now we know its no gambling... the fix is in & pretty lucrative for some employees.

    If people were able to learn from past examples, someone might have noticed the simjacking that was all the rage for a while where poorly treated employees were making a little cash on the side by handing the badguys the keys to the kingdom.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2021 @ 2:44pm

    who trusts EA?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2021 @ 4:06pm

    Value stupid things, win stupid prizes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    WarioBarker (profile), 12 Mar 2021 @ 5:32pm

    It's EA. I could see this direct-selling-on-the-sly thing being intentional.

    EA says its investigating and it needs to be very transparent as to the results of that investigation.

    Again, it's EA. I'd be surprised if they're actually conducting an investigation, and even if they are I doubt they'll find any wrongdoing unless those responsible aren't giving EA the profits.

    The entire part of the gaming industry that revolves around buying packs trying to get rare items only works if there is trust from the public that all of this is on the up and up. The moment that the public no longer believes in the system, it collapses.

    In which case, good riddance and GTFO.

    It's one thing if the pulls or gachas or whatever are 100% cash-free, available every couple hours or so, and stack with no upper limit (so if it's 1 draw per 2 hours and 12 hours pass, you have 6 draws at your disposal) or FOMO (promotional items and such go into the regular blind draw after the event ends). It's another thing if games that are free-to-play or pay-to-play have predatory lootboxes and microtransactions, which seems to be the overwhelming majority (want an aiming reticule on the screen? $5. That gun skin? $15. That character? $50. Not to mention the common "You can either struggle and grind for days and days, or pay to win." model).

    And eroding trust in a major player in this industry, such as EA Sports,

    (pfft) HAHAHA! People actually trust EA? Pretty sure that's what's referred to as "fools and their money".

    is going to have a spillover effect to other publishers and studios.

    EA has such a terrible reputation, all of its own making, that I doubt it'll have a spillover effect outside of other companies that pull similar lootbox/microtransaction crap.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Candescence (profile), 12 Mar 2021 @ 6:56pm

    The fact that this is happening is another red flag that the 'loot box' business model is bullshit and should be dropped like a hot potato, but it's too damn lucrative for so many companies, meaning we'll need to see substantial regulation in the US, EU and Japan to kill it permanently. It's an incredibly predatory business model that is basically gambling.

    I mean, for pete's sake, NBA 2K is literally representing this stuff with digital slot machines and pachinko, it's not even subtle.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2021 @ 7:28pm

      Re:

      Unfortunately, this will result in worse quality games since lootboxes unfortunately supports the game developer. I can understand where your coming from, though.

      Now, i'm neutral, just fyi.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Madd the Sane (profile), 12 Mar 2021 @ 8:00pm

        Re: Re:

        Profits from loot boxes goes to the upper management, not the lowly developers.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 12 Mar 2021 @ 10:01pm

        Re: Re:

        No, not they most certainly do not, they support exec bonuses but if a company is banking on in-game gambling to stay afloat then they're doing it wrong. The sales of the games supports game development, which is why there are plenty of games that do just fine without loot boxes and of those that are infected with those the companies are selling the games rather than just handing them out for free and hoping people start spending on the gambling aspects.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Strawb (profile), 15 Mar 2021 @ 2:17am

        Re: Re:

        Great games were being made long before lootboxes became a thing, and many developers who don't use lootboxes still make great games.

        The idea that lootboxes are necessary for the games industry to make a profit is a lie perpetrated by, who else, games industry execs.

        As for the trickle-down effect you indicate in your other comment, that's bull as well. Activision-Blizzard, for instance, had a record year in 2019, which they celebrated by firing 800 employees.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        crade (profile), 15 Mar 2021 @ 8:30am

        Re: Re:

        This is a cash grab system actual good games that stand solidly on their own currently don't use. So I don't know where you are coming from.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    crade (profile), 15 Mar 2021 @ 8:37am

    "The moment that the public no longer believes in the system, it collapses"
    Still waiting for this so called problem.. You just start from the assumption that this system of faking scarcity for profit is a good thing? The sweat shops that mine these items might go bankrupt? We won't have these cheap cash grabs in video games anymore?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    TheDumberHalf, 15 Mar 2021 @ 2:48pm

    Every big company has this problem

    A family member brokers these items from companies. The big companies have destroyed loyalty, so now employees are seeking compensation. All sorts of In-game items pop up - pets, mounts, armor, skins etc. Companies have two choices, clamping security protocols or paying employees and treating them better.

    Collectable card companies also have this problem.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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