Over the weekend, I caught Eurogamer’s spectacular news coverage of a Ukrainian warehouse stacked with PS4 consoles. It was originally thought that this place was farming cryptocurrency, but the truth is, somehow, far more disturbing. The PS4s on show were actually farming FIFA Ultimate Team accounts to go on and sell on the black market. These accounts would be sold for varying amounts, based on the cards they have and the FUT Coins they’d earned whilst a bot automatically farmed them for thousands of hours. In a way, it’s a genius way to beat EA at its own game. Get a bot to grind the game and you don’t need to pay for anything. However, people are actually paying for these accounts, and that’s dangerous.
The way FIFA Ultimate Team works is simple. You get a bunch of cards at the start that are good, but have to play and grind for currency to buy loot boxes or better cards. It’s designed to push you to purchase loot boxes and cards, something that’s an issue in itself. No one realistically has the time required to be the game at its own game, sitting there playing for hundreds of hours at a time. That’s why they buy accounts from the black market. These accounts already have great cards and a tonne of currency, which has its own 1:1 value.
For a game to spawn a black market that can justify a warehouse full of PS4s grinding it, you know there’s something rotten. You might catch something similar with other free-to-play games, but FIFA Ultimate Team is the most popular, and therefore the clear target for anyone to try to build a business. I can tell you now that the output of this place was enough to justify running all those consoles and keeping them cool for months, if not years, which shows just how much money is in FIFA Ultimate Team in general.
The bottom line here is that EA needs to change the game. If people are willing to pay for black market accounts, the game needs to be made fairer, otherwise, no one has any hope of ever having fun in it without fear of having to spend yet more cash later down the line.