OK, this is not the latest news. I got the news 2 days ago, but I was slightly too angry to deal with Zoe Kleinman directly. It all started with ‘My son spent £3,160 in one game‘, the headline was already an indication that I was dealing with a stupid person, which in itself is not a crime, yet when we are given: “I have a 22 year-old disabled son, who has cerebral palsy, complex epilepsy, autism, learning difficulties and the approximate cognitive ability of a seven-year-old child. He is unable to do any bilateral activities so relies heavily on his iPad and PlayStation for entertainment and educational activities”
Yes, there is always some excuse and the dog ate my homework is right there on top reasoning here. ‘He has recently been playing a game on his iPad called Hidden Artifacts‘, yes this is part one and part 2 is “He has been charged £3160.58 between 18 February and 30 May 2019, clearing out his entire savings“.
It is an interesting excuse because the question: ‘How do I block purchases on my iPad?‘ is answered in three steps:
- On the iOS device, open the Settings screen. Tap General, and then tap Restrictions.
- Tap the option to Enable Restrictions. Enter and then re-enter a Restrictions passcode.
- By default, all of the apps and services are allowed. To disallow in-app purchases, tap on its button.
So, people can download free games, play free games, but cannot spend money to purchase. The fact that this is not a new answer but it has been there for years, moreover, I still have the very first iPad and the functionality is there too makes this a bit of a cry story. Unlike the previous story on FIFA (which I am about to get to), this was about a person’s savings and as the person is in the described situation, it could have been prevented if the parents were more on the ball, the fact that there is no casual investigation of his bank account on a weekly basis, to check if nothing funny was going on is also a parental failure to some degree.
The basic foundation that there is no ‘free’ in free gaming does not appear to sink in to the minds of people who think that gaming should be free, there is always a price to pay, it is either through captured data, or it will be through micro transactions. We can agree that many do not use that option, and they will stop soon thereafter as the frustration algorithm kicks in making the game harder and harder. Some will spend some cash and then there are a few that go overboard. Yet in all this the makers did nothing legally wrong, they should have set the limit to max spending to look better, but they did nothing wrong, the parents failed in this case and the parents keep on failing to a much larger degree.
It is the second part that is more striking. We are introduced to EA NBA, where we get: “He used my bank card and I didn’t realise until I had a payment declined. He accessed the app via Google Play. EA made no response to me and Google Play has a disclaimer about kids using parents’ bank details without permission“, so this 16 year old stole from his parents and the parents lets the other kid pay for it. OK, that was slightly unfair, but the case remains, this is a simple case of theft and EA has no blame here.
Yet there is another side, and it is found in the same article by Zoe Kleinman. Even as the stage is almost the same, in one case, the case of that dastardly Mini Golf King, we see an important fact that is important. The game was classified as PEGI 3, now we have something to slap the makers (and Google) with. The law could force a change that in game purchasing cannot be allowed to games that are below PEGI 12, so the games that are PEGI 3 and PEGI 7 should not have any in game transactions, other than rewards for watching advertisement. In this the Pan European Game Information failed its consumers miserably and that could have been avoided. Although I am willing to put some question marks at the quote: “this game successfully tricked him into spending £300 on in-app purchases“, the stage of deceptive conduct towards minors should be investigated by PEGI and Google, if it is supported the game should be barred and pulled, also, the change towards PEGI 3 and PEGI 7 should be made immediately. We can definitely argue that these two PEGI ratings (with a green background, to make it seem safer) should not have anything resembling in game purchases, other than optional additions that much be bought at a one-time price (like mulligan refresh every 24 hours), I am certain that parents will have no issue adding the £1-5 as a one-time expense. The truth is that no game is ever free and that should be advocated much louder.
Yup time to go back to FIFA, there are two points, the first thing is that you cannot make EA guilty by victimising your little criminal. Although in this particular setting there is a sage of doubt whether they were fully aware, but it seems that they knew they did something wrong. As we see: “Mr Carter, from Hampshire, admits that he did not take full precautions to limit access to his Nintendo account: he did not use a unique Pin number and the emailed receipts were sent to an old email address with a full inbox“, I am on the side of the parent to some degree. Yes, this was an error in judgement and we all have them, I for one once fell for the witch Teresa Palmer until I learned that she married the actual original Scott Pilgrim 5 years ago. You see that is a guy who went up against the world to get one girl, I salute him, to the victor goes the spoils, and as I looked into the eyes of that witch one more time (they were sapphire blue, sniff sniff) I moved on.
We all make errors in judgement to the father I advice that never use a credit card, just buy some credit for the game, you can buy system credit for Nintendo Switch for Microsoft Xbox, and for Sony PlayStation, ranging from £20 to £50, you can buy in game stuff, renew subscriptions, buy DLC and at no time are your credit card details out in the open. All five (Apple and Google have that too) they had this option from almost the very beginning and it allows you to limit expenses and keep your details safe, a solution that works well, most articles never mentioned that part, did they?
Then there is the other part, where we see all the fire and hardship on kids trying to buy Lionel Messi, all criminals that are being victimised. And I particularly like it on how the BBC phrases it: ‘the contents are only revealed after payment is completed‘, it makes the BBC equally deceptive. When I see phrases like: “A 32-year-old FIFA player from the UK spent more than $10000 on FIFA in two years without realizing it“, I merely see a stupid individual that has no concept of purchase, no concept of value and no regard for credit cards (or his credit rating), he was his own worst enemy and he is not alone, in all that EA was not to blame, we are responsible for our actions.
I myself am not a soccer fan, I always saw it as two monkeys in a cage and 20 fools chasing some ball, OK this is not my most eloquent moment, I admit. I am into real games (NHL) and the FIFA card setting is there too, yet like in the other games there might be differences between these two.
As I know it, FIFA gives a daily gift though logging in: “Every day you do it, you get free coins or a free pack. If you forget to log in you lose the offer of that day. The daily gift expires every day at midnight (UK time) and then it starts a new one“, it is different from NHL where you get a free pack every 8 hours. However, every pack has a token, and over a month these tokens give you a bronze, a silver pack and a gold pack. Every pack will have something and a random amount of coins between 100 and 1250 coins (largest amount I ever got). Within 3 months I had every NHL jersey (both home and away), every stadium, as well as all the NHL goalie masks and of course a truck load of players. Over time I got the jerseys from the Canadian League and a few more and I never had to spend anything. I could, but did not have to do that. On the other side, I have no real legendary players to speak off (I have around a dozen 90+ players), none of the Capitals (My favourite team). Am I upset? No! I have a great game that is fun to play, some parts I do not like, but plenty are great fun and NHL 19 is the best of them all (some dekes are just too finicky, I did not like that part), but overall a great game. I reckon that FIFA is similar. In addition, by playing the game, I unlock coins (no charge) and players, OK you need to get your game up, but those players come at no expense. Now there is a part I did not like in FIFA, you can buy an ultimate addition, which was $10-$20 more at the beginning, however it was digital only and it did include 2 gold packs a week for 20 weeks, each pack had 26 cards, 3 rare cards and a minimum of 6 players that times 2 every week for 20 weeks, so it is worth the extra, I merely hate digital downloads (this is just me), there is of course always a side to nag about and that is fair, but it is still value (for some) and more important it is not gambling!
How so, no gambling?
To explain this, we need to make two jumps, the first is to card games this entire concept was started by Wizards of the Coast with a game called Magic. In case of their other game Netrunner we see a box are 36 packs, each pack has one rare, 4 uncommon cards and 10 common cards. Consider that the game has 374 cards, 100 rare, 125 uncommon and 149 common cards. So in that setting 3 booster boxes, would make a complete set, the truth is no, but for the most it fits. 36 rare cards and three boxes means 108 rare cards, yet you will get doubles, so you need to find another person to switch rare cards and complete your set. The math also plays a part, you have one rare, but 1% of a chance (1/100) to get a specific rare, and in the end you get 108 times 1% (which is not 108%) to get a specific complete set. In this case the amount of uncommon and common cards you get will be completed 98% for certain (commons 100% complete). There is a chance you might miss out on 1-5 uncommon cards, but they are usually easy to swap, it is the rare cards that make for the difference.
So, why is it not gambling?
Because you always win, you always get cards and you always get the same distribution, so those with plenty of fellow friends who play will get their collection complete, it is not the one player buying the three boxes, it is the 50 players doing that who play the same game that level the playing field. It becomes gambling when the booster pack is empty and you only get a ‘thank you card‘, that never happens, you always got the 15 cards and the same can be said for FIFA and NHL. The packs you buy will always have a distribution, have certain content. the fact that it might not have Messi, Pele, Cruijf, Beckham or Bale, but you get players, players that you can trade, yet there will always be an issue, not every player will get a Messi, there are 211 countries connected to FIFA, 11 players per team, which gives us 2321 players. Now we get it that not all countries are in FIFA 19, but you are starting to get the picture, if every nation has 2 legendary players, or one player and one goalie, we are looking at one hell of a collection you need. And FIFA 19 is true to its word, it has 30 leagues and over 700 playable teams, so we have a setting of well over 1400 players that the bulk will want and desire. Now, we get that Scandinavians have no interest in some of the Latin teams, but you bet your life that they all want the classical Pele (nowadays Suarez/Maradona) card. This creates another mess on a few levels and even as it is not gambling there is a collector’s pressure in play.
Media is guilty, EA too
The media is also guilty of propelling this pressure, not in the least with the accusations and pressing for a larger visibility of criminals being placed as victims, the game intensifies when you look at the hundreds of YouTubers adding pressures for their own need for visibility following and reputation. You merely have to search FIFA 19 in YouTube to see the mess it creates by the vocals of subjectivity on what they think is fair and not, what is sic and mundane. This all creates an unreal dimension of fake imagination. And in all this EA tries to create hype after hype and becomes the evil it should be preventing. In addition, we see a lack of exposure by the media on that part on a few levels.
So as we look at the origin of CCG cards, we learn from the very beginning that these games all have checklists, so that you know what you have, and what you are missing. EA never gave out that list; as such they are propelling the stage that works against them. Not one list of what cards there are, merely what is optionally in a pack. EA should have been clear upfront on which cards are in the game, and they have (as far as I can tell) never done that, yet when they propagate their 700 teams, they should have added digital checklists and on which players are bronze, silver and gold and we do not see that part. EA failed its fans!
EA should have set up a Wiki page from day one, giving us lists too download so that we can see what is what, but they also realise that the list will blow he socks off every player realising the daunting task and there for did not do that (as far as I could tell). That is perhaps the one deceptive part on the side of EA as I can tell.
So why the card reference?
The origins are important, it makes us comprehend where it all came from and in this specific case, Wizards of the Coast, there is also another side, it is seen with the game Netrunner.
That game was re-released as Android Netrunner with a big difference. The starter kits and expansions are all identical. So as you buy an expansion you got all the cards, no rare cards, no uncommon cards and no common cards, the base set has a set and the expansions (one box with 60 cards) ever month, so as long as you had the expansion, you had every card and you all had a level playing field, even as some tactics would never require any additions, having the additions allowed for tactical options you might really like. So as EA switches from one set to another, selling a factory set of KNVB (Dutch), AllSvenskan (Swedish), BundesLiga (German) and so on, the national players could get all the players for let’s say €5 for country and down the track for €10, European, Latin America, Asia, Africa and so on. Yet the money in this shape is too inviting and EA is unlikely to change, yet we can force on part, for EA to set up an open list of every card that can be acquired, consumables, outfits players and so on. When the player realises how huge this list is, it might temper spending and change the way these games are addressed. I remain on the fence and denouncing this as gambling, but the fact on how many cards there are should be clearly stated, so far I cannot see a real comprehensive list anywhere. The media failed us all by not looking at that part. Even as there is a FUT database giving us: “The EA SPORTS FUT Database is a complete catalogue of Players in FUT. You can search for Players by their nationality“, I want to see a pdf with a complete list (which will be hundreds of pages I reckon), so that every player see clearly what they are in for, not some implied number, but a complete list to browse, when they all realise just how large it is and how insane it is to think you ever get all the players, or a specific legendary one, at that point it will clearly sink in how much money is involved. The EA site (at https://www.easports.com/au/fifa/ultimate-team/fut/database) does give you the option to search the ‘gold list’ and that does merely give the total of 2189 players and 220 goalies that are golden cards that make up for merely that part of the list, yet a better visibility of exactly how large that list is seems absent in many places that are so bound to push for the gambling tag.
So tell me, what media gave proper light to that part of the equation?
I am not saying that EA cannot sell cards, I still think it is not gambling, but the completionist part will never be realistic and that too is a problem, we might not have all players at our back and call, not in FIFA, not in NHL, but pushing for a dream team in a $90 game, when it requires $12,000 to get every player is equally insane and not realistic. We should add the limelight to that too. Yet I do remain on the team that does not call this gambling and EA might consider to create a factory set of all these players (non-tradeable) after 6 months of initial release, if they truly want to be seen as a decent company, a phase that they are still in denial off at present.
So we have plenty of issues, but to a decent extent they are not the gaming baba-yega, at least not when it comes to FIFA and NHL, other games might require deeper scrutiny and optionally an overhaul.