On Monday, EA Sports announced their plans to immediately introduce a new feature in FIFA 15 Ultimate Team called 'Price Ranges'. The change means that every single player card in Ultimate Team now has a minimum and maximum price which they may be sold at on the FUT transfer market.
Let's push the brakes a little first for those who have no idea what the above sentence means.
Ultimate Team is EA Sport's ridiculously popular cash-cow game mode in FIFA 15. The players in FIFA Ultimate Team are represented by cards which the user can pull from a pack (similar to Premier League stickers back in the day) which can be purchased with real money or in game coins which are earned through playing matches and trading players on the market place. The cards are either bronze, silver, or gold players depending on the player's overall rating.
Since the introduction of Ultimate Team to FIFA back in FIFA 09, there has been no minimum or maximum price that you can sell a player for which has meant that users could shop the market for bargains and re-list them for their actual value. That value is normally determined by how effective each player is, not their overall rating, and a lot of that comes down to pace. If a player is fast, chances are he's worth a bit of money. Trading has almost become more important than playing the game, as this addictive stock-market-style activity can build up your coins to spend on the best players, thus ensuring you have the strongest team available.
What you should be aiming to do is play some games with your crap players at the start, earn some coins, and start trading. Look for a bargain, buy him, sell him on for profit. Slowly you can build up your coins and better players become available to you.
But not every FIFA player has the time to sit there watching the market for hours a day, looking for bargains and buying in bulk to sell on, so how does the average Joe get a squad with Ronaldo, Messi, and Bale as his front three? Well, he pays for it. EA Sports understand that some consumers will pay for a helping hand, so they made FUT Packs available in exchange for FIFA Points which you buy from the Xbox/Sony marketplace with real money. The problem with these packs is that they are entirely random. If you go buying packs looking for Messi, you will be waiting a long time. It's much more likely that you will end up with Richard Dunne. (That's no disrespect to one of Ireland's best ever players by the way, it's just that Richard is the slowest player in FUT and therefore completely useless to you.)
Understandably, users are not willing to plough thousands of pounds into opening random packs or countless hours on the maket, so third party websites (there are hundreds of them) have began farming FIFA coins from the market to sell on at fixed price, for example, you can pay €10 for 100,000 coins which will buy you a strong team to start out with. The method of delivery for these coins is that you list one of your worthless players from your club on the market for the amount of coins you paid for, and they buy the player from you. Consumers undoubtedly prefer this method as you now can do what you want with the coins you bought, but it's not all good news, as more and more people buy more and more coins, the prices of players can reach ridiculous heights. As a player who doesn't spend money on packs or players, you have almost no chance of getting the likes of Ronaldo or Messi in your team.
The Price Range introduction effectively means an end to coin sellers, as you can no longer list a cheap player and have him bought for a high amount of coins. What EA Sports want to do is level the playing field, making it so that the elite players are not priced way above what the majority of their users can afford. Also, they want you to spend money on packs to get your players, so it's not like they are swooping in to the aid of their fan base. In fact, EA Sports have listed the three things that they hope Price Ranges will ensure:
- Help FUT gamers understand the value of the players in their Club.
- Make high-rated players more attainable for all FUT gamers and ensure a level playing field.
- Further restrict illegitimate coin transfers on the Transfer Market.
But are these goals really going to be achieved?
Yes, players will now immediately know the value of the players they have in their club, but previously all you had to do was look at the market to find out what they sell for. There was no problem there previously.
Are high-priced players really going to be more attainable? If Leo Messi's price range remains as it is in the above picture, from 5 million to 7.5 million, and the only way to earn coins is by opening packs that I've paid EA for or by playing matches, then how the hell is he more attainable? Essentially, rather than paying a coin seller around €100 to pick the best players in the game to choose from, I now have to pay EA Sports to open a random pack and cross my fingers in the hope that I pull a good player? Surely that can't be right. As it stands now, I know that if I want Messi in my team, I have to pay a few hundred euro or sit on the marketplace all day every day farming coins. With price ranges, it seems that if I want Messi, I'll have to pay EA Sports for the chance to possibly pull him from a pack, or play more games of FIFA than is humanly possible, considering you get about 500 coins for a win in a match.
The third reason is the most truthful, this will definitely hurt coin sellers. The EA Sports forums, as well as the FIFA Ultimate Team community on twitter and YouTube in particular have been very vocal in their displeasure with this new system, and many think it is EA Sports simply trying to squeeze more money from their customers.
What is far more likely, is that the company have implemented this system near the end of FIFA 15's life cycle in order to trial it for a new system in FIFA 16, which would include fair prices for players from the start. If that is the case, then it would be a positive, but it remains to be seen whether the trading aspect, easily one of the most popular and arguably defining features of Ultimate Team, will be rendered pointless.
At this moment in time it looks as though EA Sports want the Ultimate Team marketplace to be less eBay, more Amazon. They decide what you should pay for the product you want.
It's a radical decision by EA Sports. They are hoping that FIFA Ultimate Team price ranges make them more money while stopping coin sellers, and make FIFA Ultimate Team a more level playing field for everyone, but in reality they will count it a success if only one of those two things happens, and it's not the former.