Last week, EA Sports added a new feature to FIFA Ultimate Team that allows you to see what’s inside a pack before purchasing it. I say ‘allow’ but it’s actually unavoidable – this isn’t an optional feature but instead the new normal. This change means you can see exactly who is in that Gold Pack you want to buy, and if it’s full of duds, you can leave it on the shelf. The packs reset every 24 hours, or immediately after a purchase, with the exception of some limited time packs that are only in the store for a few hours.
This change was brought in during the Festival of FUT event, and we don’t technically know if it will continue into FIFA 22, but that seems like a pretty good bet. It’s a dramatic shift, so to let us see the contents of a pack in FIFA 21 before returning to the full on loot box systems in this year’s outing seems like it’s asking for trouble. If any monetised online game can ride out controversy, it’s probably FIFA Ultimate Team, given how much it earns, but adding the feature only to take it away again would be a foolish move. It seems safe to say that moving forward, FUT Packs will let you see what’s inside.
This change is part of a bigger switch in the industry. Loot boxes have been heavily criticised and regulated against in the past few years, and many games are moving on from them. Battle passes are far more en vogue than loot boxes these days, with a better reputation for relying less on gambling, giving consumers more control, and rewarding the most committed players rather than exploiting them. Of course, battle passes still exist to make money, and the timed nature of them can force consumers to stick with a game for longer than they might otherwise choose, but it’s generally agreed upon that battle passes are a step up from loot boxes. When Overwatch 2 launches – whenever that may be – expect it to come with battle passes rather than the loot boxes it helped popularise.
Even battle passes are evolving – Halo Infinite’s will not be time limited, which makes other battle passes out there look downright predatory. I don’t know how or if FIFA will ever go down this road, but viewable FUT packs feel like a good start. It’s not the only game to change its loot box mechanics either – eggs in Pokemon Go will now tell you exactly what they can potentially have in them, as well as your chance of hatching each ‘mon.
This is a little different though – you can’t get rid of an egg (except by hatching it), and the only thing knowing the odds changes is that it might dissuade players from grinding hatches, since eggs remain a core part of the game that cannot be skipped. Even then, if you’re committed enough to grind out a rare hatch, knowing the rate (indicated in the game not by numbers but a one-two-three system where one means ‘less likely’) might not have much impact one way or the other on your desires. It feels like that’s the point; Pokemon Go now complies with loot box regulations without having to fundamentally alter itself. FIFA, on the other hand, might have made a major change with a lasting impact.
FIFA’s viewable FUT packs don’t just tell you the odds. It’s not a 0.07 percent chance of Messi situation, and there’s no Schrodinger’s Ronaldo in the pack. It will tell you exactly who is in the pack, whether that’s a superstar ready to walk into your team or a lot of fluff you’d be better off avoiding. For the most hardcore players, not much will change here. Those who buy several packs a day aren’t going to stop doing that just because Jonjo Shelvey is the best player in the first pack. But for the more casual players, it could make the mode much more approachable.
I play a lot of FIFA 21. I even played it as Gareth Southgate as an experiment. I write about it a lot too, from its failure to capture realism to the enigma of Jesse Lingard, to the inevitable ratings discourse, to the fact it should include taking the knee in some form if it wants to modernise itself. It’s rare that I write about Ultimate Team, despite its huge popularity, because I don’t invest any money in it and so it quickly becomes a grind. In FIFA 22, while I still won’t be pouring money into it, the fact I can see exactly who I’ll be adding to my team before I commit makes it a more welcoming prospect. I’ll know how those players add to my squad, if at all, and if they don’t I can wait until tomorrow. At the top end, I’m not sure anything changes here, but it could be a huge boost for the casual player base. While I know it has been essentially enforced by the changing tides, it’s nice to see these players getting some attention for once.
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