Earlier this month, officials in Ukraine busted what appeared to be a cryptocurrency mining operation that used thousands of PS4 consoles to mine crypto. That doesn't quite seem to be the case. According to a new report, the consoles (and allegedly stolen electricity) were actually being used to farm and sell digital currency and accounts for EA's FIFA games.
Ukranian news outlet Delo reported that PCs were running bots on the consoles to play FIFA and automatically earn an in-game currency. Players can use FIFA coins in the Ultimate Team (FUT) mode to either scoop up sought-after players on an open market or open controversial FUT packs in the hopes of unlocking killer additions for their squads. FUT packs can also be opened with real money.
Although buying or selling FIFA coins with real money is against EA policies, that hasn't stopped a thriving black market for the digital currency. People sell coins or game accounts loaded with the currency to players who are desperate to build a dream FUT roster. One site I checked listed a PS4 FIFA 21 account with 5.1 million coins for $300.
Ultimate Team modes across EA's sports games are enormously important for the developer's bottom line. Last year, EA made $1.62 billion from Ultimate Team, which accounted for 29 percent of its net revenue for the fiscal year. "A substantial portion" of that revenue came from FIFA games.
Meanwhile, FUT packs and other loot boxes have drawn scrutiny from regulators in recent years. Since gamers can't see which soccer players they'll unlock when they buy a pack, some authorities have described the packs as a form of gambling. Belgium banned that type of game mechanic in 2018. This summer, perhaps in an attempt to stave off the criticism, EA started testing a type of FUT pack that allows players to preview the contents.