Since the beginning of the Coronavirus outbreak in 2020, gaming companies have been looking for ways to maximize profits in these uncertain times. EA is one of the few companies with an edge in this department. EA has had exclusive rights to the NFL under their flagship sports game Madden since 2005.
At the start of 2020, EA and the NFL signed an agreement to extend those exclusivity rights into May of 2026. It is also important to note that EA has a provision for a one-year extension if they hit revenue targets. In comes Ultimate Team. Ultimate Team has been EA’s cash cow since they started including this game mode in their sports titles. One could say Madden Ultimate Team is like betting on NFL odds from a sportsbook website.
In the Ultimate Team mode, players acquire cards to set up the best team possible to go against other players online. Sometimes getting the best cards requires spending real money on card packs. With Vegas-like flash, players then get to see what card they got.
Sometimes it’s a bust, but other times it can be a win. The player packs require you to risk getting a great card or a terrible card for the real money you are spending.
MUT is the Cash Cow
With the Ultimate Team mode raking in more than $1.623 billion for EA in the fiscal year 2021, it doesn’t seem like they would want to do anything to jeopardize this cash cow. As of 2020, the Ultimate Team pack sales have accounted for 29% of EA’s income.
To put this into perspective, MUT netted EA $1.491 billion in the 2020 fiscal year. Since their 2015 fiscal year, Ultimate Team sales numbers have nearly tripled. These numbers are extraordinary and even more so that Ultimate Team didn’t suffer during the pandemic.
Knowing this, the NFL will be happy with the arrangement that they have with EA. But lately, there has been a push to examine if EA is promoting gambling with their packs in Ultimate Team
Legal Issues On the Horizon?
In 2020, a court in the Netherlands ruled that the packs in Ultimate Team modes were illegal. The court ruled that these packs violated the Netherlands’ Betting and Gaming Act. The ruling also subjects EA up to $11.7 million in fines for their violation. EA has appealed this decision and is still awaiting the appeal verdict.
The biggest issue is that Madden and other sports games EA sells with Ultimate Team are geared towards the 13-21 age group. The age of the people playing, combined with the risking of real money on packs, has EA in hot water. With Ultimate Team now making up a whopping 29% of the company’s revenue, they can ill afford to have anything mess up Ultimate Team.
But is Ultimate Team another form of gambling? In a way, yes, it is. Players have the option to buy packs with coins, which is the free in-game currency, or using Madden Points, which you have to buy with real money. The packs work the same whether you use coins or Madden Points.
EA gives players the option to buy a pack that MAY have a player in a certain overall range. The player could get the low-end overall card or get the high-end overall card. In this way, it’s a gamble on what you will get. The game doesn’t show or tell you what cards are inside the pack, leaving parents, courts, and even some players concerned.
With the similarities to gambling, don’t be surprised if there are changes to the MUT model coming in the near future.