There’s a rather breathless article being shared right now from “Astutegaming,” titled EA SPORTS UFC 3 – The Single Most Egregious Implementation of Microtransactions to Date. In it, it details what looks like EA not learning its lesson from the Star Wars Battlefront 2 controversy, with essentially a Star Card system for fighters in the beta of UFC 3.
“A base level jab will do minimal damage to online opponents,” the article says. “However a fighter that purchases a loot box and acquires a five-star rarity level jab, will not only have a more efficient and powerful technique in combat, but will also be treated to a host of stat increases in all regards, making their player undeniably better in every scenario.”
This sounds bad, but the panic is…a bit late. Actual UFC 3 players, ones who have also played the past games, know that this is essentially the same system from UFC 2, so there’s not really all that much new to see here. The outrage in this article could be justified, but in this case, it’s old news.
But it does raise an interesting point. Why aren’t UFC 3 players upset about what is essentially Battlefront 2’s Star Card system infecting their series? And will the success of the fan uprising against BF2 inspire EA Sports players to do the same?
In short, no, I don’t think that EA Sports players care all that much about getting involved in this fight for a few reasons:
- They’re used to it. Something like FIFA Ultimate Team has been around for ages now, and most players simply understand and accept the economy as it is. This is opposed to Battlefront 2 where this is the first time players are seeing something so blatantly pay-to-win in the series, hence the uproar.
- Many sports game players just don’t care. We exist in a somewhat small bubble here in the gaming world, and forget about legions of people who play yearly games like FIFA, Madden and UFC and just don’t care all that much about monetization models or EA’s revenue. If they like stuff, they buy it, if they don’t, they won’t. They’re usually less prone to mass revolts over issues like this.
- These issues may not affect sports games as much. In UFC’s case, the line I hear a lot is that despite these stat boosts, it doesn’t really make the game pay-to-win as victory will almost always still go to the better player. In Battlefront 2, a different type of game, that may not be as true there, and you can buy your way to victory with an overpowered TIE Fighter or what have you.
- The issues these players do care about don’t usually have to do with microtransactions. There’s a #FIXFIFA Change.org petition with a whole bunch of signatures on it, but if you’re expecting it to be a mass revolt against Ultimate Team price gouging, it’s not really about that. It’s about fixing core issues with gameplay for the most part, and while they do call for a spending boycott to get EA to notice, no one is asking for Ultimate Team to be dismantled or to stop selling player cards or anything.
This isn’t to say sports game players are “wrong” about this issue, it’s just that they can’t really be bothered with it, as monetization, for the most part, does not seem to have fundamentally changed how they enjoy these games. Not to generalize, but a lot of my Madden and FIFA-playing friends are also the type of guys who throw down cash on sports bets or for fantasy tournaments. Ultimate Team is just another form of that, in a way, minus the capacity to win any real-life money back.
But the problem for the larger industry becomes that when something like FIFA Ultimate Team can make a billion dollars in revenue and not cause any mass fan revolts at the same time, the idea is that the concept can be translated into a bunch of other games and genres as well. That’s where we run into trouble, and how we got to where we are today. You can have almost identical systems in a game like Battlefront 2 and UFC 2/3, but because of the different fanbases and the types of games those are, what works for one can outright ruin the other.
If anything I hope that EA Sports players do start to push back because it would help out the industry as a whole, but if they feel like they’re not being taken advantage of, or if they don’t care they’re being taken advantage of, I guess that’s their prerogative. I don’t think Battlefront 2 protestors are any more “enlighted” than casual sports players, I think the two groups are often different sets of players with different mindsets, not that there isn’t some overlap in there.
So no, do not expect the imminent destruction of Ultimate Team at the hands of angry fans, but also watch for ways sports players might get pushed too far, like we saw in NBA 2K18’s career mode earlier this year. Everyone has a line, and this one might get crossed soon.
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