FIFA 21 players are already relegating themselves just a week after the game launched.
Players are confessing to self-relegation in order to stay out of the top divisions of FIFA Ultimate Team's competitive multiplayer ranking mode, Division Rivals.
The issue has to do with the rewards on offer and the new 30 game cap for Division Rivals weekly score contribution.
In Division Rivals, your rank within your division determines your weekly rewards. While your division (there are 10) is determined by your skill rating, which ebbs and flows as you win, draw and lose matches, your rank within each division is determined by your weekly score, which is obtained by playing matches (you get more weekly score for winning than drawing and losing).
At the end of the week (Thursday mornings), your division and rank are used to determine which set of rewards you get - FUT Coins, FUT Packs (either tradeable or untradeable), or FUT Champions Points to help you qualify for Weekend League. The higher your division and rank within it, the better your rewards. At least, that's how it's supposed to work.
Players have found there's no point sticking around the top divisions because the rewards are potentially better in the divisions below them.
This issue is exacerbated by the new 30 game weekly cap for weekly score contribution. In theory this is a great feature, as I wrote in my FIFA 21 review, as it levels the playing field for those who don't have as much time to play as others. However, some FIFA players actually want the grind to return, as it would mean they would have a better chance of achieving the top ranks in the top divisions. As it stands, these top ranks in the top divisions are incredibly tough to achieve. For most players, winning in these divisions is not guaranteed because of the skill of the opponent, and you only have a set number of games from which to earn weekly score.
"The problem comes when you start limiting how much I can grind my rank," low rank Division 1 player Dincht04 explained in a post on the FIFA subreddit.
"I will never get D1 rank one with the current system, because I don't win enough games in D1. For reference, I have played 24 games this week. I have 12k points and am at rank three. Rank two is 13600 currently. Rank one is currently 16300."
Dincht04 compared their reward choices for rank two in Division 1, to rank one in Division 4:
D1 Rank 2:
- Option 1: 55,000 Coins
- Option 2: 2x Rare Mega Packs
- Option 3: 4x Rare Mega Pack (Untradeable)
D4 Rank 1:
- Option 1: 65,000 Coins
- Option 2: 1x Rare Players Pack, 1x Prime Gold Players Pack, 1x Mega Pack
- Option 3: 2x Rare Players Pack (Untradeable), 2x Prime Gold Players Pack (Untradeable), 2x Mega Pack (Untradeable)
The upshot here is the rewards are marginally better for getting rank one three divisions below Division 1, which explains why players are self-relegating.
"Where is my incentive to stay in Division 1 for next week?" Dincht04 asks. "Why shouldn't I finish my 30 games this week, and then demote myself to D4 for next week, where I can cruise to rank one without breaking a sweat?
"Rewards need to be seriously buffed for the higher divisions, otherwise we're going to see self-relegating even more than last year.
"I'm sure some of you won't agree and will see this as a higher ranked player bitching, but why should I sit through 30 games against some of the best players on the game, only to get less rewards than I could just by smashing people who aren't as good as me?"
As Dincht04 notes, self-relegation is an old issue for FIFA. It was pretty rampant in FIFA 20, although for different reasons. Still, it's concerning we're already seeing players relegating themselves in FIFA 21.
"I stayed in Div 1 for most of FIFA 20 for the ultimate packs," redditor JMclovin303 said. "Now I can't get rank one with 30 games so I have to relegate. New system sucks."
Already some FIFA 21 players are feeling the effect of others self-relegating during their games online. Quitting in Division Rivals triggers a penalty - the quitter will eventually suffer a hit to the number of FUT Coins they obtain after each match. But it can be rough on their opponent, too.
If someone quits on you while the game is tied, you get a token 300 points towards your weekly score. But you get more for winning (500), and an extra 90 per goal to a maximum of five. Self-relegators who quit while the game is tied rob others of potential weekly score gained from games made all the more important because of the cap.
Redditor JetSpyda issued "a plea to the people relegating" in a post on the FIFA sub.
"I refuse to blame the people who are relegating themselves because they want the best packs to have the chance to build their teams," they said. "This is on EA.
"With that being said, and the fact that EA changed Rivals to have a cap of 30 games this year, I just have one thing to ask if you are a person relegating themselves. PLEASE PLEASE score an own goal first. At least give the person you match the win so they can get ranking points otherwise it's a complete waste of a game for them.
"I'm sure most people don't give a shit about where others rank, but I think it's kind of shit to waste someone's ranking game by just quitting immediately at 0-0 when it takes less than a minute to concede or score an OG."
"Self-relegation affects all of us," said pwomboli. "People in lower divisions are going to have zero fun getting beat by people much better than them. High divisions will become harder and will have insane matchmaking wait times (it already happened on Xbox at least last year). Never mind that Rivals is much harder than the WL, it's way less rewarding (from D2/1 onwards).
"I don't mind playing tough competition, but why push my limits when it doesn't make any sense to put in the effort?"
So, what's to be done? The obvious starting point is for EA to take a look at the rewards on offer, but in order to combat self-relegation, the developer may also want to take a look at the amount of weekly score gained from winning - and the penalty for quitting.
On the other hand, Division Rivals' new weekly cap will no doubt be working well for many players who have no ambition towards the top divisions. For these more casual players, the better rewards on offer lower down the pyramid will help them improve their squads quicker. EA now faces a balancing act keeping the hardcore who are shooting for Division 1 and 2 on-side while the rest of FUT's enormous competitive audience settles in mid-table.