In-game products have become a staple of many video game online environments. In some instances these can be short in supply and therefore highly sought after, adding to them a cash value outside the game itself. For games which allow the ability to trade between players, acquiring these products becomes a means for minors to enter situations governed both by chance and financial gain. One example currently under the microscope is FIFA cards.
Digital FIFA cards range widely in value. Because they are unevenly distributed over purchased packs, the player never knows when they will stumble into something valuable. For example, the going rate for a Kylian Mbappe card in the resale market is €227.50, and you can score a Virgil van Dijk for €72.50.
Onlookers have developed serious concerns with this practice. The Dutch Gaming Authority (Kansspelautoritiet, or ‘KSA’) has contacted EA to remove this unnecessary earnings model from their FIFA games. While the resale market for digital items is not explicitly gambling, the argument is that it is gambling with added steps.
Because a large contingent of those engaged with it are under the age of 18, the Dutch regulator argues extensive protections need to be in place. With still-developing brains, youth players are more susceptible to problem gambling in the future.
EA has publicly resisted calls to alter the internal economy of its games. The sale of digital card packs is highly lucrative for the video game giant, and extends the value of its investment in developing its games far past their initial purchase price. EA has stated that their games are enjoyed by players across the world, and their digital card packs pose no threat to anyone.
With other national agencies have not been so tough on gambling-adjacent products, the KSA has continued to pursue the issue domestically. This led to a court ruling to penalize those selling FIFA cards in the Dutch market, though this has been seldom enforced and has delivered little effect. The KSA has proposed that EA be obliged to separate its FIFA cards from the game platform, and develop a secure platform in which only adults can trade these items.
EA continues to ignore attempts to regulate its products, but is expected to remain the target of public investigations and complaints. Therefore it is likely to serve as the precedent for other digital markets of this kind. Determining what constitutes gambling and what impact it poses on young players will be essential in setting boundaries for the increasing number of high-value digital items made available.