How to stop kids racking-up huge bills in FIFA 23’s Ultimate Team

FIFA 23 now offers in-game purchase options (Amazon)
FIFA 23 now offers in-game purchase options (Amazon)

With the Government still dithering over plans to outlaw so-called “loot boxes” in games, it’s left to parents to ensure their kids aren’t spending a fortune in FIFA 23’s Ultimate Team mode. Here’s a closer look at the problem and how parents can prevent getting an unwanted credit-card bill.

FIFA 23 Ultimate Team – what’s the problem?

Ultimate Team has long been a controversial feature in the FIFA franchise, but Electronic Arts, the company which makes this popular game, is sticking with it for this season’s release.

The play mode allows players to create their own fantasy team of players, both current-day stars and legends from the past, such as Pele or Zinedine Zidane.

The controversy arises from the way these players are acquired. FIFA 23 sells packs that contain a random selection of players and other virtual items. The more expensive packs supposedly deliver a greater chance of receiving the best players, although the chances are still slim. Even by EA’s own admission, the chances of getting a ‘Gold’ player rated 84+ in a Premium Gold Pack is only 4.2 per cent, or less than one in 20.

The better the players in your team, the greater your chance of winning games. It’s very different to games such as Fortnite, where players do spend large amounts on cosmetic items, but they don’t have any material impact on your success in the game.

FIFA’s Ultimate Team packs are often branded “loot boxes” because it’s a lottery on which players you receive. Much like packs of football stickers, you buy blind. There’s no guaranteed way to get a Lionel Messi or Harry Kane in the card packs, and players have been known to spend hundreds or thousands of pounds chasing these stars. Admittedly, those are extreme scenarios but the principle remains the same.

You can buy those premium players in the in-game transfer market, but that requires serious amounts of in-game currency, which is why many players are tempted into buying packs and hoping for the best.

How much do Ultimate Team packs cost?

The most expensive packs are those that promise the best chance of getting decent players.

The premium-player packs are not yet being sold in FIFA 23 but, if last year’s prices are anything to go by, the Jumbo Premium Gold Players Pack cost 700 FIFA Points to buy. At the time of writing, a pack of 1,600 FIFA Points cost £10.79, so you’re looking at around £5 for that premium pack – with no guarantee of getting the players you’re after.

In EA’s defence, packs and players can also be bought using in-game currency earned from winning games and other in-game achievements, without spending any money at all. But the amount of in-game currency required to buy, say, Lionel Messi is so ridiculously high that many players decide to gamble on the card packs - especially soon after the launch of a new game, when the rewards for owning a legendary player that the vast majority of other teams won’t have are huge.

Organisations, such as the NSPCC, have long warned of the dangers of loot boxes in video games,

“Because loot boxes and in-app purchases are so common in games, without regulation, they can potentially normalise gambling from a younger age,” said Luke Savage, senior project officer at NSPCC Child Safety Online. “It’s really important for parents and carers to have regular conversations with their children about what games they’re playing online, and to talk to them about in-game purchases.”

The Government called for more evidence about this problem back in 2020 and finally put out a response in July of this year. At this point, the then Culture Minister Nadine Dorries said there wasn’t strong enough evidence to act against the games companies at present, but warned them to get their house in order.

“We want to mobilise the industry’s creativity, innovation, and technical expertise to deliver tangible progress, improving at pace protections for children and young people and all consumers,” Dorries said. “If this does not happen, we will not hesitate to consider legislative change.”

When previously asked about the FIFA22 loot-boxes, or FUT Packs, as the company prefers to call them, EA defended the premise in the following terms: “Spending is entirely optional in our game, and we do not encourage spending over earning rewards through game play.

“FUT Packs work in just the same way, whether they are paid for or earned, and most players don’t spend in-game at all. For example, nine out of 10 FUT Packs opened in FIFA 22 were earned.”

How to stop your kids buying Ultimate Team packs

The surest way to prevent children spending money on Ultimate Team packs without a parent’s knowledge is to make sure in-app payments are switched off on whatever console or mobile device the child plays FIFA 23 on.

On an Xbox console, the best way to control this is by ensuring kids have their own profile and that they don’t share an adult’s profile where payment details may be stored. Instead, create what Microsoft calls a Family Group, where each member of the family has their own profile.

Purchased games can be shared among the family and parents get to control in-game spending. Parents can either give their kids an allowance of money to spend (virtual pocket money, if you like) or ensure they seek permission before any in-game purchase is made.

The Sony PlayStation has a similar system, called Family Management. Again, this allows parents to set spending limits on a child’s account so that they can’t run up ghastly bills behind your back.

FIFA 23 also has mobile versions of the game, as well as an Ultimate Team app for iOS and Android, where players can buy packs and trade players. Once more, ensure that appropriate parental controls are deployed on these devices to ensure kids aren’t racking up massive bills.

Click here for a guide to switching on Apple’s parental controls and here for setting up Family Link on Android devices.

We are awaiting a comment from EA on this article.