EA has announced that it is removing trade offers from Ultimate Team mode for FIFA 15.
Trade offers were a way for users to exchange items with one another directly rather than relying on the game's auction mechanism. In theory this allowed for barter deals, but in practice most people used trade offers to share items with friends - stuff like coins and players that would otherwise take the second player a long time to obtain. On the surface of it, then, it seems like a frustrating change for friends who like to innocently pool their resources.
However, EA's decision to remove trade offers has more to do with a third category of user.
"Although some honest players used this feature to trade with friends, it became one of the methods used by coin sellers to sell and move coins," the developer said in a forum post announcing the change.
"Account phishers also abused Trade Offers by moving stolen players and coins after wrongfully gaining access to unsuspecting FUT player accounts.
"This will also address 'bid bumping', where people would try and trick others into bidding far more than they wanted for a player item."
In other words, the move is part of EA's concerted campaign to cripple the coin-selling black market that has grown to great prominence in recent instalments of the game and which is closely linked to account hacking. Starting this year, coin sellers will have their accounts banned and buyers will be subject to a 'three strikes' system, with punishments ranging from a warning to full account ban for persistent offenders. The collateral damage to honest trading caused by removing trade offers in service to this campaign was obviously seen as a necessary evil.
"It was a tough decision," EA wrote, "but this is the right step towards improving security, showing cheaters the red card, and keeping FUT safe for all FIFA fans."
Coin sellers also use "Buy It Now" pricing options to distribute coins to their customers. After paying upfront via a website and providing a PlayStation Network or Xbox Live username, the coin-buying user then puts a cheap, disposable item (like a bronze player) up for auction at a Buy It Now price that matches the number of coins they have purchased. The seller then buys the item, thus depositing the purchased coins with the buyer. Removing trade offers won't actually stop this, although it will presumably make it much easier for EA to identify coin-selling activity and take action against the accounts involved, since it will be more obvious in the developer's activity logs. (Update: EA has confirmed that Buy It Now remains in the game.)
In related news, EA also announced that the maximum number of transfer targets in FUT 15 after unlockable EA Sports Football Club boosts are applied would be 50, meaning you can only ever bid on that many items at once.
Furthermore, the FUT web app, which relaunches this week after many months of operating with reduced functionality as EA sought to tackle the bots used by coin sellers, will require Origin login verification from this year onward.
FIFA 15 is due out next Friday, 26th September, in Europe.