FIFA Playtime Is The Right Step In The Wrong Direction

Yellow card or red card? You decide.


One of the biggest points of contention for the FIFA series over the past few years has been the implementation of FIFA Ultimate Team, specifically regarding its use of card packs. Players can spend real money to buy packs of players in order to get the leg up on their competition, which many have considered to be “pay-to-win gambling”. Coupled with the fact that FIFA is often played by children, and you have a recipe for news stories titled along the lines of “kid spends £8,000 on FIFA Points”.

In order to combat this, EA have announced that they’re implementing FIFA Playtime on Tuesday, November 17th, which, according to the official patch notes, offers “a new suite of tools that enable players to have more control and visibility over how they play”. That’s a bit of a vague statement by itself, and EA themselves haven’t clarified what it actually means, but Eurogamer managed to get the scoop on what FIFA Playtime entails.

According to them, FIFA Playtime is a “tool for parents and players to help them control various aspects of the game, including time spent playing, spending, social communication, and access to games by rating”. Essentially, you’ll be able to use Playtime to put a cap on the amount of matches played or purchased packs that can be opened, and Playtime will also tell you how many FIFA Points in total have been purchased. It won’t tell you what those points equate to in real world currency, unfortunately, but EA aren’t privy to those purchase details.

It’s part of EA’s ongoing Positive Play Project, and while it’s undoubtedly a necessary step when it comes to regulating the amount of money people regularly spend on FIFA Points, it’s hard not to feel like this energy is being directed in the wrong way. Eurogamer themselves came to the same conclusion in their report; that Playtime doesn’t resolve the core issue of pay-to-win gambling mechanics. Call them surprise mechanics all you like, it’s a pay-to-win loot box and we all know it. However, I believe Playtime is also being implemented for the wrong reasons too.

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EA Playtime might be great for managing what Little Jimmy spends on his parents’ credit card without them knowing, but I’m willing to bet that these features won’t be on by default, meaning the onus will still be on parents to do their due diligence and manage the kid’s playtime. I highly doubt Jimmy will be telling his parents that there’s a way they can properly monitor the amount of time he can play FIFA, or the amount of packs he can open.

The problem isn’t that parents need more tools to manage kids when playing games, as both the PlayStation and Xbox have a suite of parental controls to stop their kids from running rampant on their consoles, buying games and FIFA Points left, right and center. Parents need more awareness of these tools and how to use them, sure, but adding these tools just to the game doesn’t seem like the right move. You’re effectively asking those who need to be governed by Playtime the most to meet them in the middle in order for it to work. Oftentimes those affected, who are usually children, won’t realise there’s a problem until it’s too late.

Personally, and this is just my speculation here, EA adding this feature in the midst of FIFA coming under fire again for their loot boxes is a little suspicious. Those class action lawsuits that EA are facing are going to be a little bit easier to defend against if EA can point to FIFA Playtime and say “look, we’re offering ways to stop players from bankrupting themselves”. Perhaps this is from my general distrust of EA’s business practices when it comes to loot boxes and microtransactions, but Playtime doesn’t seem like a truly altruistic addition.

Again, we come back to the same conclusion of Eurogamer. Playtime is a decent enough step when it comes to regulating the amount of time and money players are dumping into FIFA Ultimate Team’s microtransactions, but it doesn’t address the real issue here. Playtime wouldn’t be necessary if the microtransactions weren’t so damn predatory to begin with.

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