Almost anyone who has played FIFA Ultimate Team over the last few years would be familiar with coin sellers. You may not have used them, but you’ve probably heard of them. They sell FIFA’s in-game currency, FIFA coins, for real-world money.
A small group of hackers, who provide coin-selling websites with coins, are being taken to court by EA. Defendant Anthony Clark and three other hackers allegedly made $15-$18 million by mining FIFA coins and selling them on to third party websites. They did so by tricking the EA servers into thinking matches were being played – at an impossible speed – and harvesting millions and millions of coins.
Last year, several computers and Xbox 360s were seized from Clark’s possession, and nearly $3 million were taken from his bank account.
The trial begins today in Texas.
Perhaps equally importantly, is that this is the first major legal precedent laid down by EA against coin hacking and coin selling. We have recently seen FIFA include price ranges to limit the effectiveness of coin selling, but this is the first big step to actively combat the crux of the problem.
Despite some headlines proclaiming millions stolen from EA, the reality is a little bit murkier. The lost revenue is actually from coin selling limiting the appeal of buying FIFA’s other currency, FIFA Points. So it is potential lost revenue, rather than direct theft. FIFA Points are used to buy packs and enter certain competitions, and can only be bought with real-world money. It’s one of the more egregious examples of micro-transactions sneaking into our already full-priced games. There are only three ways to have an amazing team in FIFA Ultimate team; buy FIFA points, buy FIFA coins, or grind and get extremely lucky. EA would rather all of the money spent go into their pockets.
And that is absolutely their right.
As evil as EA may be, their ability to charge ludicrous prices for FIFA points is only dictated by the market, and it does not mean that hacking their system is fair game.It will be very interesting to see the outcome of this case, however it pans out.