Accusations Of EA Employee Side-Selling 'FIFA' Rare In-Game Items Is A Problem If True
from the side-hustle dept
With so many online video games moving to models that involve selling rare items or other aspects of gameplay after the purchase of a game, it’s worth noting that this concept of selling manufactured rarity isn’t exactly new. In fact, one notable analogue version of this can be found in the trading card industry. And if you’re looking for parallels of danger, the baseball trading card industry has that covered specifically.
A brief history lesson. While baseball cards have made something of a comeback recently, especially due to expanded trading and collecting avenues created by the internet, the industry also quite famously tanked in the ’90s.
That trend has reversed in the last few years. While the baseball card industry fell from domestic sales of $1 billion in the ’80s and early ’90s to $200 million in 2012, Leiner says that it’s now bounced back to the strongest position that it’s had in two decades (though he declined to share Topps’ sales numbers). That isn’t just from breaking—sales have also increased in other forms of online retail, as well as at big-box stores like Target and Walmart.
So what happened in the early ’90s to tank the industry? There is more than one answer. The labor lockout of 1990 certainly hurt the trading card business. Baseball’s decline as the focal national pastime contributed to it as well. But then there is also the legend of the Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card. Upper Deck quite famously made Griffey Jr. its #1 card in the 1989 set, despite him having never played a game. The other major players, such as Topps, didn’t have a rookie card for him that year. There was an insane fervor around getting that rookie card when the set came out, even as it turned out to not be a particularly rare card. One explanation for the lack of rarirty is a matter of printing techniques.
Despite the popularity of the Griffey card, it was not a scarce card. The card was situated in the top left hand corner of the uncut sheets and was more liable to be cut poorly or have its corners dinged. Company policy was that if a customer found a damaged card in its package, the company would replace it. Many Griffey cards were returned and the result was that Upper Deck printed many uncut sheets (sheets consisting of 100 cards) of just the Griffey card. According to Professional Sports Authenticator, the Ken Griffey, Jr. would become the most graded card of all time with the company.
But there have long been rumors that something else happened. Some have suggested that those running Upper Deck’s presses actually purposefully produced extra Griffey Jr. rookie cards when they were highly sought after, seeing it as a way to essentially print money. Whatever the truth, the market was flooded with this sought after card, the value of the card plummeted as a result, and a whole bunch of collectors got very angry and turned off from collecting baseball cards. Coupled with the other factors, the industry contracted to something like a quarter of its previous revenue.
Which brings us to EA Sports and accusations that at least one employee has been selling rare FIFA assets for money.
Using the hashtag #EAGATE, complaints have been made that someone within EA has been selling FIFA’s Prime Icon Moment players for huge sums of cash, like €1000 (USD$1190) for two players.
That’s a lot of money, but there are people out there who both take FIFA very seriously and spend thousands on Ultimate Team packs just trying to unlock elite players, so to be able to cut out the random factor and get the best players directly isn’t as terrible a deal as it may sound to you.
When the complaints first surfaced, it was hard to parse which were legitimate and which were just…the same white noise the FIFA community is always capable of producing when it comes to its uneasy relationship with developer EA Sports.
You could write this all off as rumor, but there is some pretty convincing evidence floating around the internet.
So we grind/trade/open packs and can’t touch these PIM players but EA employees sell them to people secretly for $1,700?!?! LOL I respect the grind but my god… pic.twitter.com/CCnhjZbcgH
— Nick ?? (@Nick28T) March 10, 2021
If you can’t see the embedded tweet, it shows images that purport to be direct solicitation of rare player cards for large sums of money. And that brings us back to the lessons learned from the baseball industry: this sort of thing can destroy not only the marketplace for a single game, but for the industry as a whole.
EA says its investigating and it needs to be very transparent as to the results of that investigation. The entire part of the gaming industry that revolves around buying packs trying to get rare items only works if there is trust from the public that all of this is on the up and up. The moment that the public no longer believes in the system, it collapses. And eroding trust in a major player in this industry, such as EA Sports, is going to have a spillover effect to other publishers and studios.