The role of loot box mechanics in FIFA’s immensely popular and profitable Ultimate Team mode has been under the microscope for some time, with some governments going as far as banning the sale of FIFA Points or fining developer EA.
It seems that the increasing pressure (and potential legal action) around loot boxes has forced EA’s hand, as FIFA 21’s latest update contains a new line of code for an error message that suggests Ultimate Team could start to be blocked or shut down in certain parts of the world.
The line of code, which was discovered by FUT Watch, is titled “popup.error.geoipblacklist” and will present a message saying: “FIFA Ultimate Team is currently not accessible due to a demand from the authorities of your region.” While many FIFA players in countries such as Belgium and The Netherlands, which have both been outspoken and taken action against EA for Ultimate Team’s loot box mechanics, are concerned a ban is just around the corner, there is nothing to suggest the mode will be shut down anywhere any time soon.
What it does show is EA’s acknowledgement that government action against in-game mechanics which could resemble gambling is a real possibility.
— FUT Watch (@FutWatch) December 8, 2020
EA has been working to mitigate concerns around Ultimate Team as a form of gambling with spending caps, for both in-game currency spending and with real money on FIFA points, in a recent update. Over the past few release of the FIFA franchise, it has also added more ways to get players and items outside of its divisive pack system, such as Squad Builder Challenges and a Season Pass filled with objectives.
However, from this new line of code, it seems EA does not perceive Ultimate Team as invincible.