FIFA U Team has gained international notoriety thanks to its detailed guides’ quality. But it’s become more of a cult website with Silvio Teixeira’s Tête-à-tête. These chronicles attracted a new kind of public, one that’s loyal and requires closer help. Central Point and My Happy Hour haven’t got replacing Tête-à-tête as objective, but satisfying these kind of followers who stay around at least all Saturdays looking to read an article of easy understanding written by someone with lots of game experience.
Rodrigo Lopes, the website’s author, has always wanted to do something while being some place near the community where he could explore more freedom of content. In this area, which will start by being a monthly thing, he’ll definitely have the opportunity to show a mostly personal vision about (not only) the game.
Who Framed FIFA 15 Ultimate Team ?
Welcome to the second ‘My Happy Hour‘. “There being so many other interesting themes to approach, why did he have to insist on this?!” you ask. Yes, it’s true. Trust me, there’s no one else as worn out as me when it comes to reading about price ranges. In fact there are even a few FIFA 16-related exclusive information I wanted to share with you or some tips regarding the TOTS, but unfortunately I really have to make this first and last analysis on EA’s strategy for the game. I owe part of the community this much.
It’s one of those themes almost everyone has got an opinion on. The problem is that people tend to make their opinion extremist, defending their point of view just as they would defend their favourite club. Either they absolutely hate the changes, or they absolutely love them. Things aren’t always black and white. It’s important to leave emotions aside and analyse the facts as impartially as possible. This is what I’ll be trying to do, although obviously every analysis has its personal component.
Most players define which side they’re on according to the benefits EA’s strategy has brought them. In general, people who already had the best players are against price ranges. They watched their cards lose too much value, their biggest source of profit, trading, turned almost inexistent and they feel like the tons of coins they have now are worth nothing since the best cards can no longer be found on the market. The ones that agree with the changes are mostly those who don’t buy coins, don’t use Autobuyers and they feel like it’s become easier for them to get the best players, which they were never going to be able to afford before. People and their egocentric analysis forget that it’s not about our coin balance in the end, but seeing whether or not the game’s problems have been solved. Has it not become sustainable?
Before I go on, just to help people who aren’t familiar with the game keep up, here’s an overview of what happened. Since the beginning of FUT 15, the most expensive player cards have been the target of a never before seen kind of speculation, which made them inaccessible for most players. EA Sports didn’t hesitate to blame it on the coin sellers and autobuyers. So they decided to fight them by implementing several changes in the game, including the Web App and Companion transfer market deactivation and then the definition of maximum and minimum prices for each card, followed by the omission of the seller’s club name on live auctions and bigger tournament prizes. Will all that have good results?
FIFA 15 Ultimate Team is certainly a superb game. Original, creative and extremely addictive. But it suffers from many problems that supposedly could be easily solved: faulty servers and tournament prizes, banned accounts for no apparent reason, cards stuck on the market or simply gone, punishments for disconnections that don’t make sense, incorrect in-game statistics etc… I could sit here all day and list problems but I think you got the idea. These are serious errors that affect our game experience and EA just don’t give them proper attention. Nevertheless, it’s not because of all these problems that I should stop analysing the changes introduced on the FUT 15 transfer market. These are two different things. After all, micro-transactions are what makes this a differentiated game mode. You have to respect more and marginalize less those who take advantage of them.
“It’s EA’s game so they make what they want of it” I’ve heard so many times. Yes, it’s true. And that’s why they’ll prioritize everything that ends with them selling more FIFA Points rather than fix the game’s most basic errors. They know that the concurrence is weak, they’ve got a big and loyal fan base and, most of all, that it’s important to profit as much as possible. However, they might end up with a surprise on FIFA 16.
If there’s anything about EA being in harmony with the community, it’s their timing when it comes to introducing changes. They do have permission to do what they want with the game. But changing the rules during the show is at least a disrespect against the people who paid for it. Their moral obligation is to give the customer a final product, not transform FIFA 15 into an experimental version for FIFA 16. Several thousands of players have spent their precious hours gathering coins honestly, hoping to be able to build their dream team. After all, this is what it’s all about. It’s not fair that their fortunes had to be reduced to less than half in the blink of an eye, even if their financial power would have stayed the same, which didn’t happen.
The superpotent north american company claims they had to act fast in order to fight the disastrous effects caused by the increasing number of coin sellers and autobuyers on the market. It’s obvious that something had to be done, but not in the middle of the game. The release of FIFA 15 would have been the right time. The way things ended up wasn’t near unexpected. It took them way too long to take action.
The only way there is to stop the autobuyers is deactivating the remote access Apps. They did this in the middle of FIFA 14 with the Web App but they left Companion operating. This way autobuyers never stopped functioning. In other words, they took the Web App away from the community for nothing. They announced a profound reformulation for these popular applications on FIFA 15. The so called innovations were no more than a two steps-long security authentication which can be easily surpassed by these softwares. So easily that with less than five months passed they had no option other than to keep the Apps deactivated once again until they find the solution. Can you see how cyclical this is?
Now the war against the coin sellers has been way more aggressive. First, they used moral speeches in order to make them seem like the bad guys. EA are putting the community against the coin sellers, ignoring the fact that they were the ones who used to promote these guys the most in the first place, offering trips and fame to Youtubers who had coin seller sponsorships. It backfired after all. Then, the strategy became an attempt to make coin negotiations as difficult as possible, the famous Price Ranges were introduced. The problem is that all this has got side effects: on the game experience itself and even for EA. The cards’ prices were set minimums and maximums, thousands of accounts got banned (many of them used by innocent players), coin seller hunt season was promoted and the seller’s club name got removed from live auctions. But all this wasn’t enough to stop coin negotiations. There was in fact a very significant reduction but the coin sellers have come out with several original methods, including account sales. As soon as the community gains trust over these methods, recovering interest on the game, there will certainly be a partial increase of customers (those that were then lost). And it will be EA’s turn to act again. It’s one of these two: either put an end to these companies’ business once and for all, removing for example the transfer market from the game, as well as my friend Silvio Teixeira had predicted several months ago; or they maintain the same politics that’s been keeping these scapegoats alive, which have always been really useful when the time comes that they have to justify to the community why the game isn’t that great. We’ll have to wait until FIFA 16 comes out to see the next chapter.
‘Who framed FIFA 15 Ultimate Team?’ is the title of this article and if you’ve been actually paying attention you noticed I don’t blame the autobuyers or the coin sellers, but the game developer. They have the responsibility to hand the customer a product that functions. And they ought to take the right measures within the right timings to make sure that happens. If they consider the autobuyers and coin sellers the ones to blame, then they have to act accordingly without this meaning negative effects on the player’s game experience. I don’t even need to know what they’ve gone, as long as I’m able to play FUT 15 in the same conditions as those that were promised me when I bought it. Which isn’t the case.
“But aren’t the autobuyers and coin sellers guilty?“, you ask. In my opinion, they do have a responsibility on the game’s failure but they’re not the ones to blame. Only EA are. I’ll explain. For the game to have reached the state it’s at, an extremely high inflation level had to be hit. That was responsible for the high prices. As far as I know, the inflation is the result of coins being generated inside the game and it only starts with packs being opened with FIFA Points and games being played for their rewards, the last one without much impact. As an (succesful) attempt to reach the greatest incomes with pack openings, EA abused with the launch of successive Happy Hours and ended up injecting a ridiculous amount of coins in the game. There were special packs for the FUT United event, Black Friday, Christmas, TOTY, etc… Everything was an excuse to sell more and more FIFA Points.
What both the autobuyers and coins sellers do is promote injustice on the market. Whoever makes use of these services gains privileged access to a bigger amount of coins coming from other players. There’s no such thing as coin generating softwares. I do admit that this inequality may cause inflation on a few prices, since there are more rich people willing to pay extremely high prices, but the true reason for inflation is the FIFA Points market.
There’s another behaviour on the market which is extremely important that you understand for a correct analysis of the current situation. People who play Ultimate Team since the game mode was released have got a wider vision over the prices’ behaviour and are able to somehow predict them. Year by year, it’s possible to observe that this accumulated learning of the market is each time more valuable and known by the players. I’ll give you the most concrete example. The two most expensive players are always Ronaldo and Messi. Except for very few occasions like when the TOTS is released, their prices tend to increase as time passes. From FIFA to FIFA, not only they become more expensive each time but the period of time in which they go from costing a fair amount of coins to hitting an astronomic price is each time shorter. If you know that, it’s a normal thing for you to try and buy them as soon as possible because you know they’re going to hit much higher prices. This is one of the causes of speculation. An authentic snowball that shouldn’t be underrated. EA should create mechanisms to stop this kind of behaviour from happening instead of simply blaming the coin sellers for such high price fixations. This market tendency already used to happen before coin negotiations became a massive business. It’s obvious that they’re guilty as well, since this inequality allows many people to get these cards with great speculation potential early, but you can’t forget that, for example, the recent creation of the automatic upgrades for in forms rule was responsible for the most disproportionately high prices in the history of the game.
Inflation on FIFA 15 was such a massive thing that suspects emerged about a possible existence of bugs in the game that allowed coins to be generated. EA refused to explain to the community what was going on, because that would mean take the blame off the coin sellers, but there are strong indications towards the developers themselves being the guilty ones. They didn’t just recently define a maximum daily amount of rewardable games played per account for nothing. It might be just the top of the iceberg that hides something bigger and which I’ll try to explain as simply as possible. It seems like there are bots programmed to start offline season games and interrupt them with a disconnection. At the end of each one of these games a package is sent to EA containing information concerning what the servers should do. In case of disconnection, the server should act not giving the coin reward and establishing a DNF loss. However, these bots are designed to intercept the packages changing the information inside in order for the coin reward to be granted. If they are applied to hundreds of accounts, these bots can generate a very considerable daily amount of coins. That’s why you can see accounts that were created recently on the match coins leader boards with an absurd amount of victories that wouldn’t be possible even if you played 24/7. What if I told you that this glitch is around for three years now? Does this help you notice who has truly framed our game?
It seems incredible that a company this big can make such ridiculous mistakes, but you can notice it easily when you analyse its behaviour towards a few other similar cases. Let’s see for example the cards that could be found on the FIFA 14 market costing more than 15 million coins. Cards weren’t supposed to be able to sell at higher prices than that because that’s supposed to be the absolute maximum. However, some people managed to. How? They used third-party applications which didn’t offer this limit, and since the server wouldn’t verify the information, that was allowed to happen. It’s exactly the same that happens with the coin glitch. The package’s information is altered and the server accepts it without even validating it. This leaves the idea that EA are not interested in solving such a simple problem. They usually go for the easiest solution, like see what happened with the EAS FC catalogue bonus reward item as soon as someone found a crack, they simply deactivated it. Two years passed, it all stayed the same.
Don’t look at this article as an anti-EA propaganda, because that’s not what it’s about. My life philosophy isn’t even going after someone to blame when things are bad, but finding solutions so they get better. This is what’s important. As lost as FIFA 15 Ultimate Team may be, in my opinion worse than ever, what I want to know by now is whether FUT 16 will be playable or not. Will it be worth buying it? Will EA be able to correct this year’s problems? Will the trading thing be back?
It’s not going to be easy to stop the bleeding from all these wounds the game got itself with. Clearly eliminating the game’s bugs and weak spots isn’t among EA’s thoughts, the Price Ranges implementation is one thing that they’ll potentially keep. Potentially because in order for them to expect the best results they need to present proof that they know exactly what they’re doing, which unfortunately is something that hasn’t been happening. They started by defining the wrong prices, such as for example some players’ SIF cards costing less than their IF cards. They finally got their incompetence degree when they tried to universalize the prices of the three platforms, PC, Xbox and Playstation. They didn’t understand that this would never work in the middle of the game. This attempt only made us see that they faced Price Ranges as an opportunity to define the prices they wanted to force against us. It should be exactly the opposite: EA should use this tool in order to regulate the market, giving it liberty to keep on working by itself. What they must have not been waiting for was the bad response from people who already had very valuable cards. Instead of putting them on the market, they kept them. Revolted with such massive devaluation, they made them go extinct. EA still tried to inject many of these cards on the market, sometimes anonymously now that the seller’s club name has been removed. It’s going to be a long time until they’re able to win this war, I even predict that some of the most valuable TOTS will never show up on the market.
Many NIF cards are accessible now, which is something positive, but the market still finds itself stagnated. With more than half the season passed already, few people are interested in these cards. It’s time to improve squads, not build new ones. And people who have good cards won’t sell them because they know they’ll get much less in return than what they paid and that they’ll hardly find other good ones to replace them on the market. Finally, there are those who don’t want to invest in good cards, because they know that with the constant price range adjustments, it’s just a matter of time before they get strongly devaluated. Result: Thousands of cards being auctioned at their minimum prices that won’t find a buyer and thousands of cards that won’t show up on the market even at their maximum prices. It’s true that it’s still possible to build average squads with reasonable amounts of coins, but the Ultimate Team market is dead and the game is just not the same like this.
To be implemented on FIFA 16 as well, Price Ranges have a better chance to be successful, but some of these problems will continue to exist. Even if prices are defined with wider ranges, trading will never be as fun any more. Removing the minimum price could help alleviate this strangulation a bit, but EA don’t seem to be interested in that because, according to them, it’s fundamental on the combat against coin sellers. It isn’t, but they say it is. If you’ve been playing this game mode since its birth, you know that the definition of limits never solved all problems. On FIFA 10, it was necessary to remove the limit of one million coins auctions maximum because the market simply wouldn’t work.
This path EA have chosen might be one to work, with costs for the trading enthusiasts, but it’s not the easiest. In fact, whichever the decision would be, the path to be taken would always be difficult. Within such an enormous economics environment as this, everything behaves as a castle of cards. You have to be extremely cautious on every move you make so that everything doesn’t fall apart. Increasing the match coin rewards, tounarment and season prizes seem like one of the most reasonable decisions to be made. It’s a matter of justice. People that play the game shouldn’t end up so prejudiced when it comes to building their team in relation to people that mostly dedicate to trading. But even this must be done with moderation, otherwise you’ll be generating too many coins and therefore contributing to market inflation. Increasing the best players’ card weights or lowering the price of FIFA Points aren’t an option, because of course there’s always the assumption that EA’s incomes should never, ever be negatively affected, while both cases lead to that. This isn’t easy, what’s left for us to do is sit and hope that EA take the right steps for FIFA 16.
‘But do EA actually have reasons to be worried? How bad are things?‘ you ask. Very bad, I’ll answer. For the first time in the history of this game mode, an increasing number of players isn’t expected for the next year. Quit rates will be the highest ever, even considering that many players that are currently dissatisfied will end up buying the game. While there are people who can live without a transfer market, there are also lots of people who both won’t give up the fun buying and selling offers and won’t accept the developer’s kind of disrespect that changes the rules during the game and doesn’t focus on problems that occur every year just because they don’t directly affect the FIFA Points market. The #futrip hashtag didn’t go viral because of nothing. It’s not just the coin sellers showing dissatisfaction, as some people would say. It was real people, honest people, like me and you.
Although there isn’t enough solid evidence, the number of people that apparently have left Ultimate Team is frightening. According to Chu Morah, EA Sports FIFA Community Specialist, there were more people playing UT in the last week of march than during the TOTY, which I can only face as an April Fools joke since that was exactly the day of said revelation. All the numbers I have point the opposite direction. You just need to look at the number of live auctions on the transfer market to see that’d hardly be the truth. I’ve got the privilege to look at some more data that can give up a clearer idea of what’s going on. Apparently, a decrease of around 55% was registered in the couple of weeks that followed the Price Ranges implementation, and then one of 40% in the weeks preceding the TOTS release. Less players represent less copies of the game being sold and mainly less income from FIFA Points, which is more than enough to make EA’s alarm go off for their golden goose is at risk. The implementation of these changes mid-season was an authentic shot in their own foot. It would’ve been better to leave the game the way it was and only apply these changes on FIFA 16. Now the company’s image faces an ugly fate.
Now that I’ve spoken my opinion out, supported by several facts, I can finally shut it and leave it to you in the comments section. Whatever happens, FIFA U Team will be around to help those in need.
I commend you all who read this entirely. I promise I’ll try and be as brief as possible next time.