Over the past few years EA’s FIFA series has been the target of multiple investigations and government hearings across Europe, with some countries concerned that the game’s flagship Ultimate Team mode is basically gambling, and others convinced that it is and taking action.
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Belgium is perhaps the most famous example, but earlier this year an Austrian court also decided that the market for FIFA’s Ultimate Team card packs constituted illegal gambling. At the time not much else was made of the decision, but a report from German site Gamesmarkt (via GI.biz), saying Sony hasn’t appealed the decision, shows that the ruling now has a cost.
While details of the case itself can’t be published for the public, Gamesmarkt reports that Sony now has to refund the plaintiff in the 2022 case €336.26 (USD$364). That might not sound like much, but it’s just an initial cost; Padronus, the law firm bringing the case, says they have “several hundred” more clients lined up, and given the ruling in this first case there’s now a precedent for them to be refunded as well.
If you’re wondering why Sony is having to do this, and not Electronic Arts—the actual developers and publishers of the game—it’s because the transactions in this case in particular were made on the PlayStation Store, making Sony liable. Though given the court’s ruling, you would think it would be easy to apply the same rules to sales of the game—and it’s FIFA Ultimate Team packs—on every other platform it’s available on, from Xbox to PC.
FIFA’s Ultimate Team is a hugely-popular online mode where users open packs of virtual cards and can add the randomly-inserted players to their team. The fact you’re paying for the decks, and that the contents are random and unknown to the player, is the main reason so many governments have either decided this is gambling, or are coming very close to doing so.