With FIFA 22, EA is trying a bunch of new stuff - and part of that is selling the kind of cosmetic items we've not seen in the football series before.
FIFA 22 launched proper yesterday and with that global release came the first cosmetic items in the in-game store.
Somewhat surprisingly, they're all anime gubbins. These cosmetics revolve around someone called Mirai, some sort of anime character EA has drummed up to wrap loose lore around DLC.
Here's the official blurb:
"Mirai, a rookie pilot-engineer and her ancient mecha, Kako, faced the first Level XI Kaiju in history.
"When Mirai bravely defied the Kaiju, Kako became powered by the strength of her soul.
"Celebrate the legend of Mirai's Mecha Soul with exclusive customisation items in-store now for a limited time."
So, what can you buy? There's a raft of stadium-related cosmetics (tifos, banners etc), home and away kits and a team crest.
I'd like to highlight two DLC pieces. The first is this trophy, which you can place near your stadium pitch. Very realistic!
And the other is the Mecha Core VIP area, also for your stadium (Stamford Bridge has something just like it).
The price of this stuff is expensive. The VIP area costs 45,000 FUT Coins (the virtual currency you earn through gameplay) or 500 FIFA Points (£3.99) on its own. That's four quid for that small part of your stadium that flashes on-screen briefly during a match.
Then there's the trophy, which costs 36,000 FUT Coins, or 400 FIFA Points (you can't buy exactly 400 FIFA Points from the in-game store because of course you can't).
Mirai's Full Bundle, which includes all the associated cosmetics (two-stick banners, basic and XL tifos, crest, stadium theme, home and away kits, pitch trophy and VIP area) costs 135,000 FUT Coins or 1500 FIFA Points. That's £11.99 to kit out your Ultimate Team stadium in anime mecha style!
FIFA players are already having their say about the appropriateness of these anime cosmetics, and as you'd expect purists aren't thrilled. It's an odd fit for FIFA, which sells itself on being an authentic simulation of the beautiful game. But it's the natural next step after EA started selling cosmetics outside loot boxes for the first time in FIFA 21. And in a world in which loot boxes are increasingly frowned upon, perhaps EA is looking to diversify its billion dollar cash cow before the politicians come calling.
Truthfully, I don't mind these cosmetics, although they should be cheaper. I'm just surprised it took EA this long to add this kind of stuff to FIFA. I've long called for EA to ditch the morally bankrupt Ultimate Team loot boxes in favour of a premium battle pass and the sale of cosmetics. Here's what I wrote in Eurogamer's FIFA 21 review:
"Did EA not get the battle pass memo or something? Did Fortnite pass the studio by? FIFA 21 has season progress, which looks like it wants to be a battle pass, but it feels like EA pulled out of the tackle because it was frightened of getting injured. Get rid of pay-to-win loot boxes and sell a premium battle pass. Sell meaningless items. Sell celebrations. Sell kits. Sell player haircuts, for all I care. EA Sports' famous tagline is 'it's in the game'. Well, it's time to take pay-to-win out - and put a proper battle pass in."
What next? The Avengers in FIFA? Whatever Fortnite can do...