EA have told Mirror Football that FUT players ‘can acquire all items in the game without ever spending money’, amid the ongoing ‘Black Market’ investigation.

Following the statement that was released by EA in the early hours of Saturday morning, in which the company confirmed they have launched an investigation into the ‘Black Market’ allegations, Mirror Football submitted a number of questions to EA regarding specific details about the investigation and other topics in regards to the Ultimate Team game mode, which have been answered in full.

In addition to revealing details about the ongoing investigation, EA have also commented on possible changes to the Ultimate Team game mode, perceived unobtainable highly-rated items and whether they are aware of the perceived unequal playing field within FIFA Esports.

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The FIFA 21 ‘Black Market’ allegations emerged last week, when screenshots circulated on social media appearing to show that highly sought-after and highly-rated FUT Icon Moments and Team of the Year FUT 21 cards, were allegedly being offered to players in exchange for real-life currency.

Following these allegations, EA have launched an investigation around EA accounts being used by someone within EA, and whether they are being used to grant highly-rated FUT items to individual accounts that did not earn them through gameplay. These allegations have been referred to as either the ‘Black Market’ or ‘Icon Gate’ on social media.

After the statement was released, Mirror Football submitted a number of questions to EA regarding specific details about the investigation. EA responded to Mirror Football’s questions in full with some exclusive comments, which can be seen in full below.

When was first time you were made aware of the alleged transactions?

EA have responded to Mirror Football's request for comment around the FIFA 21 'Black Market' investigation.
EA have responded to Mirror Football’s request for comment around the FIFA 21 ‘Black Market’ investigation.

“We were made aware of suspicious activity relating to highly rated content in FUT by the FIFA community earlier last week,” An EA Spokesperson told Mirror Football.

What steps are being taken to identify the full story of what is happening?

“We have launched a rigorous internal investigation.

What is the latest in regards to the ongoing investigation?

“Our initial investigation shows questionable activity involving a very small number of accounts and items. Although it is not a large number, if these allegations prove out, this activity is unacceptable.

Will EA provide full transparency to the community regarding the results of the investigation?

“We highly value and appreciate the commitment and support of the FIFA community in helping identify this issue and have provided a transparent update on our initial findings via our Pitch Notes on 12 th March.

“We will continue to provide updates to our community as we have more details.

Is it even technically possible to manually add Icon Moments items into player accounts? And if so, why is this possible?

“There are a few scenarios where we grant content that has not been earned or acquired through gameplay. Details on granting can be found in the Pitch Notes.

“The sum of items granted through these three scenarios combined is less than 0.0006% of the total player items in the FIFA 21 ecosystem.

“These grants have no impact on the odds of any player in the ecosystem acquiring these players – they have no bearing on the overall volume of available content, and all content that is granted is untradeable.

Are you able to track how many of a specific player item have been distributed across the game, for example Player Icon Moments?

FIFA 21 (next-gen) was released on December 4, 2020 for Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S and PS5.
FIFA 21 (next-gen) was released on December 4, 2020 for Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S and PS5.

“Yes, we are able to track this level of information.

What will you be doing to stop this happening again?

“We have suspended all discretionary content granting for an indefinite period and will provide further information on next steps once the investigation is complete.

Will this episode prompt EA to take a detailed look at Ultimate Team as a game mode overall, to see how it could be improved in FIFA 22 and beyond?

For example, could the distribution of extremely rare player items be improved, so that more players have the chance to obtain rare items that are currently viewed by many as unobtainable?

“We are always reviewing feedback from our player community and taking steps to improve and evolve the game.

Some professional FIFA players have said that they have to spend several thousands of pounds when the latest FIFA gaming title is released, in order to be competitive during qualifiers and in the build up to major events at the start of a competitive cycle, which in the view of some is creating an unequal playing field for the professional community.

Because, although official FIFA Esports events allow the access to a wide range of FUT items for all competing players, the qualifying rounds do not, so this may favour those who have better teams through spending more money.

Are you aware of this? And, are you looking at ways in which the professional FIFA scene can be a more equal playing field for all competitors in future games?

“FIFA Ultimate Team is a multi-faceted game of skill. It’s important to note that you can acquire all items in the game without ever spending money, with purchases being entirely optional.

“Any professional competitive player needs to demonstrate the skills of the meta-game in order to be considered proficient enough to compete at an Elite level, which includes trading, economy monitoring, squad rotation and challenge completion.

“Although the goal is to win matches, FUT isn’t just about playing simulation football in the stadium, just as football isn’t solely about performance on match day – there are many areas where players need to be better than their peers in order to create advantage on the pitch.

“Progression is a prerequisite if you intend to be a professional player in any sport and eSports are no different.”

EA first released a statement on this issue in the early hours of Saturday March 13, confirming that they have launched a rigorous investigation, also confirming their suspicions about what exactly is happening.

“Earlier this week, we were made aware of suspicious activity relating to highly rated content in FIFA Ultimate Team,”Read the statement on the EA website.

“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).

“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.

“The alleged behaviour is unacceptable and in no way do we condone granting or purchasing player items in exchange for money. This practice runs counter to the game’s competitive integrity, is a violation of EA’s User Agreement, and is not something we tolerate. We do not allow the trade or sale of items outside our game for many reasons, including that it would create an unequal playing field for our community.”

EA have also confirmed that they have suspended all discretionary content granting for an indefinite period.

*FIFA 21 is out now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC. The next generation version of FIFA 21 is also available now on Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S and PlayStation 5.

Fans who jump into FIFA 21 can also benefit from Dual Entitlement, enabling them to upgrade their copy of the game from PlayStation 4 to PlayStation 5, or Xbox One to Xbox Series X/S at no extra cost.

To upgrade your current gen version of FIFA 21 to the next gen version of FIFA 21 (alongside the current gen version) on your PS5, Xbox Series X or Xbox Series S, you have to log into your next generation console with the platform account associated with your Xbox One or PS4 copy of FIFA 21, and you’ll then will be able to access FIFA 21 next gen through your games library.