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Investigation into alleged FIFA Ultimate Team black market finds an EA account was involved

It's not clear if an employee or a hacker was using the account

EA have admitted there may be some truth to allegations that an employee used insider access to sell FIFA Ultimate Team cards for huge sums of money. The company launched an investigation last week after claims came to light, and on Friday said they discovered at least one EA account had handed out items it shouldn't have. However, apparently it wasn't not yet clear whether someone who works for EA had done it, or if the accounts had been compromised by wrong'uns. Goodness me.

Last week, a number of FIFA players alleged to have proof that someone claimed to be working for EA was selling ultra-rare cards for Ultimate Team, the team-building mode that's heavy on loot boxes. Supposedly the seller had the ability to directly add cards to buyers' accounts, including cards that the game blocks people from trading. Prices thrown around included $2500 (£1800) for a particular coveted card. EA said on Wednesday that they would look into it, then came back on Friday with an update.

"We learned that FUT items were granted to individual accounts that did not earn them through gameplay - i.e. by opening a pack, purchasing through the transfer market, completing a reward challenge (e.g. an SBC completion) or other engagement (e.g. viewing a Twitch Broadcast)," EA revealed in Friday's post. "It appears that one or more EA accounts, which were either compromised or being used inappropriately by someone within EA, directly entitled items to these individual accounts."

So yes, the skulduggery definitely does run through EA systems rather than some sort of glitch or exploit. Jeez. But they weren't yet ruling out the possibility that hackers (or other form or wrong'un) might have gained access to the account(s).

"When our investigation is completed, we will take action against any employee found to have been engaging in this activity," EA added. "Any items granted through this illicit activity will be removed from the FUT ecosystem and EA will permanently ban any player known to have acquired content through these means."

In the meantime, they say they're indefinitely suspending the system used to dole out the cards, Discretionary Content Granting. That's a fancy way of saying they sometimes give cards to professional footballers, celebrities, or employees. They stress that such cards aren't tradeable, that they have no impact on the odds of regular players getting them, and that they don't give them to "influencers". But no one will be getting cards this way for now.

The poking continues. EA say they "have launched a rigorous investigation, narrowing how this may have happened and identifying those accounts which have received content through this illicit method." The bans are coming.

This whole stink came less than a week after the end of another Ultimate Team mess. After years of allegations and belief that EA were using their patented Dynamic Difficulty Adjustment technology to make good FUT teams play worse, several players brought those claims to court in a lawsuit in November 2020. EA announced at the start of the month that the lawsuit had been dropped. Then all this happened. I wonder what it is about a game built upon loot boxes that makes players distrust it.

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Alice O'Connor

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When not writing news, Alice may be found in the sea.

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