FIFA 21 Ultimate Team sales halted amid scandal — what you need to know

Soccer player kicking ball
(Image credit: EA)

An EA employee has been accused of selling FIFA 21 Ultimate Team items to the tune of $2,000 on the black market, forcing a halt of all discretionary content spending. 

Dubbed “EA Gate” by fans, the publisher of the mega-popular soccer video game franchise issued an update stating that it is rigorously investigating the matter and will ban any accounts that have been associated with illicit in-game item purchases. 

“The alleged behavior is unacceptable and in no way do we condone granting or purchasing player items in exchange for money,” EA said in a blog post. “This practice runs counter to the game's competitive integrity, is a violation of EA’s User Agreement, and is not something we tolerate.”

The news came to light when Italian pro FIFA player for Exceed, Matteo Ribera, started leaking pictures of direct messages between users and the accused EA employee.

EA issued a statement saying that anyone involved in nefarious content acquisition will have their accounts permanently banned. 

"We know that the trust of our communities is hard-earned, and is based on principles of Fair Play. This illicit activity shakes that trust.  We’ve also been clear since the creation of Ultimate Team that items cannot be exchanged outside our game, and that’s key to how we keep our game safe from manipulation and bad actors.  This is a breach of that principle, as well -- and we won’t let it stand."

Content granting is when in-game items are given to specific players’ accounts and are non-tradable. These items cannot be exchanged or transferred and may not be shared with other players. 

The items in question are known as Icon cards which are normally earned through gameplay or integrated engagement from another platform. The prices of the cards being sold by the employee ranged from $800-2,000 USD.

FIFA Ultimate Team, also known as FUT, is a mode in which players are able to build teams using players from any league throughout the history of professional soccer. Players can buy packs, similar to trading cards, with the chance of unlocking a rare player. That player can then be added to an ultimate team. And much like cards, players can be traded or sold. 

FIFA Ultimate Team brought in $1.5 billion for EA in 2020, with spending "off the charts" during the Covid-19 pandemic. The massive popularity of FUT, especially among younger audiences, has caught the ire from some European countries with strong anti-gambling laws. Games with these types of randomized packs, also known as loot boxes, might soon be labeled as 18-plus in countries like Germany.

Ron Lyons, Jr. is a freelance writer. His beats include culture, entertainment and technology, and he has written about everything from Xbox to Netflix for Tom's Guide. His bylines include Slate Magazine, Insider, and the 101.9 WDET. Whenever he’s not writing stories, he’s playing video games and listening to music on Spotify.