EA is selling FIFA 21 cosmetics outside loot boxes for the first time.
The FIFA 21 Ultimate Team store was updated today, 1st May, to include a new Stadium tab. You can buy a tifo, a stadium theme, and a new home and away kit individually, or all available items in a bundle.
These cosmetics are available direct purchase, which is the first time EA has done this. Previously, cosmetics could only be earned through objectives or via Ultimate Team's controversial loot boxes.
However, there are a number of issues here. The first is the cost. A tifo can be bought for 150 FIFA Points (around £1.20), a stadium theme can be bought for 200 FIFA Points (around £1.75), and the kits cost 300 FIFA Points (around £2.50). The bundle, which includes everything, costs 700 FIFA Points (just shy of £6).
Alternatively, you can buy these items with FUT Coins (the in-game currency you earn through playing), but again, the items seem overpriced. A single tifo costs 11,500 FUT Coins. That's a lot when you consider a premium gold pack loot box, which costs 150 FIFA Points - the same as the single tifo if you were to buy it with real-world money - alternatively costs 7500 FUT Coins.
The stadium theme costs 15,000 FUT Coins, and one of the kits costs 25,000 FUT Coins. The bundle costs an eye-watering 60,000 FUT Coins, which is more than a prime gold players pack (45,000 FUT Coins or 600 FIFA Points). Remember, the bundle only includes four cosmetics: the tifo, stadium theme and home and away kits - and they're pretty underwhelming cosmetics, too.
These stadium items are tradeable on the transfer market, so I had a look to see how much they were going for. Hilariously, players are already selling these items for fewer FUT Coins than EA is. I've seen the stadium theme with a buy now price of 7600 FUT Coins:
And people are selling the tifo for just 5600 FUT Coins - less than half EA's price:
Players are also selling the kits for several thousand fewer FUT Coins on the transfer market:
Of note: you can only get one of each stadium item pack or bundle from the FUT Store. Once you get that pack or bundle, it will no longer appear in the store for you.
Also of note: you would end up with a duplicate item if you bought an individual stadium item pack and later got the bundle. You would also end up with a duplicate if you bought one of the cosmetics from the transfer market and then bought the same cosmetic from the store, although I'm not sure why anyone would do that.
It's an interesting development for FIFA and EA, and comes at a time when the football franchise is under increasing pressure from governments and charities over its loot boxes, which have been called exploitative and akin to gambling.
This week, EA denied it was "pushing" FIFA players to spend money on loot boxes after a "gaming insider" leaked marketing documents to a mainstream publication. However, a Eurogamer analysis of EA's statement showed a number of issues with the company's claims.
In a post on its website, EA said these stadium packs and bundles are only available during a limited window of time (this current offer only lasts for two days), but may be added to the FUT Store "at various points in time", which suggests to me more cosmetics will be sold in the future.
Perhaps this new ability to buy cosmetics suggests EA is finally willing to tweak FIFA's business model. I've long called for EA to stop selling loot boxes for real-world money and switch to a battle pass system for Ultimate Team. As I wrote in our 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."
All eyes now turn to FIFA 22. Will fundamental changes to Ultimate Team's monetisation be put into place for the game?