We all know Ultimate Team is an extremely lucrative product for EA. The digital card collecting fantasy mode continue to be at the forefront of FIFA and Madden, despite pleas from fans for EA to focus on other aspects of the game (like the forgotten franchise mode in Madden).
But no matter how much we complain, Ultimate Team is here to stay. And if EA’s revenue figures are any indication, the company will only continue to focus on and expand this mode in their sports franchises.
In EA’s new SEC filings, the company reported that Ultimate Team represented a whopping 29 percent of the company’s net revenue in fiscal year 2021, which ended in March.
EA reported $5.6 billion in total net revenue for the fiscal year, which means Ultimate Team brought in $1.62 billion. EA noted that a “substantial portion” of that came from FIFA Ultimate Team. As noted by Niko Partners analyst Daniel Ahmad, EA’s net revenue from Ultimate Team has steadily grown every fiscal year since 2015, when it was just $587 million.
For those unfamiliar, Ultimate Team in FIFA and Madden is basically a fantasy experience in which you assemble your own roster from your collection of digital cards that you can either earn through playing or purchase with actual cash. The hook is that these cards are randomized in digital packs, so you never really know what you’re getting. And when you’ve got rare or limited events, it creates a sense of FOMO so people start to spend more.
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Ultimate Team’s loot box format is often deemed predatory in nature and governments around the world have started to scrutinize the model. There’s often talk of regulation or even outright banning the sale of loot boxes which, of course, would be a huge blow to EA’s business.
But unless governments act on these concerns, EA will likely continue to focus on Ultimate Team. And why wouldn’t they? Yearly growth in revenue clearly shows a growing interest in Ultimate Team and it’s clear fans are willing to fork over money for these digital cards. Whether or not Ultimate Team’s business model is ethical or moral is certainly up for debate, but as long as the cash keeps rolling in, I don’t expect EA to be the one to lead that conversation.