Microtransactions have caused enough controversy in the video games industry. Yet, many publishers seem to have still not learned from previous mistakes – theirs, or those made by others. Instead, EA have decided that not only are the commercialising mechanics still relevant in today’s market but they’re also suitable to be marketed towards the younger audience. A vulnerable group who you could say are easily influenced and quickly made to feel as though they’re missing out on something.
You see, it has been brought to the public’s attention that the publisher have recently had one of their FIFA 21 advertisements included in the Smyths Toys magazine. Not a crime in itself, I agree. But amongst the glossy spread was a step-by-step guide on how to make the most of the Ultimate Team feature, whereby it encourages the use of FIFA Points to open packs. These are the costly add-ons that you may have heard of in the media, unless you are also a FIFA player. And one of a variety of premium additions that often catch out parents’ bank accounts. Not to mention, encourage an unhealthy obsession with digital content in general.
This is not the first time it has happened, apparently. And I cannot say I’m shocked. But it is hardly surprising that some parents have a complete distrust and dislike for the industry when stunts like these are pulled. By one of the biggest names, may I add. EA are in a privileged position, in a number of ways, not least because their football themed and violence-less series is one of few that parents will openly purchase for their younger family members. Yet, that is not enough to prompt them to look after that audience – which speaks for itself.
Now, it is inevitable that microtransactions will continue to be a feature of games for as long as they prove to be financially viable. Especially as many companies, gaming as well as the betting industry in general, believe a simple rewriting of their slogans to suggest “you should just stop when it’s a problem” is enough to rid themselves of any liability (putting the responsibility on those who may not recognise they are struggling). But I think it’s fair to say that any mention of such activity should be restricted to older audiences, in an attempt to safeguard the younger populations from an issue that could plague them for many years to come. And the morality of this decision should definitely be questioned – by all parties involved.
Source: All FIFA Mistakes Twitter
— FIFA21Mistakes (@AllFifaMistakes) September 26, 2020
Update: A PR rep for EA has since reached out today with a comment, explaining that the advertisement was run in error, and that the publisher is working with Smyth’s. Here’s the full comments:
“We take very seriously the responsibilities we have when marketing EA games and experiences in channels seen by children. In spite of this, we’re aware that advertising for FIFA Points has appeared in environments it shouldn’t have. We have been working diligently with Smyths to ensure this advertisement is not distributed in any remaining copies of their 2020 catalogue. We have also undertaken an immediate review of all future media placements and are working to ensure each of our marketing efforts better reflects the responsibility we take for the experience of our younger players.”