PR Crisis Lessons from Within the Gaming Community
Earlier this year, the gaming company Electronic Arts, which is behind the popular game FIFA, was embroiled in a big PR crisis, which was one of the biggest scandals to ever strike the company. The crisis happened because an EA employee allegedly sold Ultimate Team cards for thousands of dollars.
Several unconfirmed messages surfaced on social media platforms, where the employee was shown to be selling the coveted cards in packages that ranged around $1000 in price. In one of those messages, a package of three cards was offered for over $2000. Among FIFA fans, these icon cards are incredibly sought after, and they include many legendary players such as Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, and Pele, among others. Many of those legendary player cards are almost impossible for fans to obtain through the company’s controversial loot boxes.
Additionally, there were some cards that were even rarer and that had special versions marking a significant tournament or game for the iconic players, which were named Prime Icon Moments cards. Through EA loot boxes, fans have been known to spend thousands of dollars in attempts to obtain these rare cards, and many have also criticized the company for not disclosing the exact probability that people will get a certain card.
To buy these loot boxes, fans had to obtain FUT Coins, which can be used to buy the Icons from the auction house in the game whenever they become available. While a black market for buying and selling items, including the in-game coins, has always existed for the game, this had been the first time that fans have been able to purchase cards directly using cash.
With screenshots of the alleged card packs surfacing on social media, many fans and players started claiming that if anyone had the ability to directly purchase the desired cards, the money and the effort many had spent in legitimate ways had been devalued. This not only damaged the company’s reputation, but it also ruined the balance of the economy within the game, making it a worse experience for players overall.
Once the situation became public knowledge, EA responded to the allegations by saying it would be launching an internal investigation to identify any misconduct from employees. The company also condemned the behavior and stated it would be updating the players once the investigation was complete.
Later in the investigation, the company announced that it had uncovered “one or more” accounts involved in the illicit trading scheme, stating that the accounts were either used inappropriately or were simply compromised. Electronic Arts also stated that it would be taking action against any employees that were found to be involved in the incident, as well as removing any “under-the-table items” from the game itself.
While many members of the gaming community have expressed negativity over the company’s various actions and activities in the past, this situation is one where the company responded promptly and rightfully. The worries of the players were eased, as all such activity within the game was temporarily halted throughout the situation, and prevented from happening again in the future.