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EA’s ‘FIFA Playtime’ to help users set limits on Ultimate Team spending

Controls come to FIFA 21 on Nov. 17

Kylian Mbappé taking a penalty kick in FIFA 21 Image: EA Vancouver/Electronic Arts

FIFA 21 will introduce a tool called FIFA Playtime that allows players to monitor and control the amounts of time and money they spend in the game.

Players, or their parents, can set limits on how much premium currency they can buy or how many matches they can play. They will even be able to limit the number of card packs they can open in FIFA Ultimate Team, the game’s very popular card-collection game.

Ultimate Team, introduced more than 10 years ago, is a frequent target of criticism and player discomfort over the influence microtransactions have on the mode’s enjoyment. It’s been tremendously profitable for Electronic Arts, effectively creating a second premium game mode within a full $59.99 title, with no limit to how much fans can spend on content.

“The integration of both tracking and limits in FIFA Playtime is grounded in research that shows that having access to more information helps players feel comfortable with how they play,” EA said in a blog post on Thursday. “When combined with smart prompts to guide choices, players were able to better find a comfortable balance in their gaming.”

Ultimate Team’s larger goal is to acquire great players from all over the world and play them in a wide variety of single-player and multiplayer matches. Built on the sports fan experience of opening a pack of bubblegum cards, not knowing who’s inside, players have increasingly complained that they feel led to spend relentlessly in order to have fun or be competitive. Card packs can be acquired freely with an in-game currency awarded for gameplay, but they can also be bought with FUT Points, which is a real-money currency that skips the grind of building up a low-rated side.

In 2018, FIFA 19’s Ultimate Team began revealing the odds players had of finding certain types of players or items inside a pack of cards; that policy was then applied to the Ultimate Team modes offered in the rest of EA Sports’ catalog.

The company has drawn scrutiny from lawmakers and regulators, in Europe in particular, over its Ultimate Team modes and whether they constitute a form of gambling. It stopped selling premium currency in the FIFA series in Belgium, after that country’s Gaming Commission ruled that loot-box features were a form of unregulated gambling. Appearing in Parliament in the United Kingdom last year, an EA executive called loot boxes “surprise mechanics” that its players found fun and enjoyable.

EA Sports said FIFA Playtime is part of the company’s overall Positive Play Charter, which seeks to set standards for both itself and players to reduce toxicity and create healthier communities. FIFA Playtime features will join FIFA 21 on PlayStation 4, Windows PC, and Xbox One on Nov. 17, and then on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X when that version launches Dec. 4.

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