FUT FM 97
Hey comrades, welcome to the latest FUT FM!
Using behavior studies, today we’re going to take a look at how and why FUT keeps its players hooked. Do you ever play the game constantly despite not having a great time until you burn out?
Here’s why, and here’s why that’s bad for EA.
FIFA Rewards Can Reinforce Positive And Negative Behavior
Psychologist B.F. Skinner found that you can reinforce set behaviors through rewards at variable intervals. He discovered that once the subjects begins to exhibit the wanted behavior, you can mess around with the timing and content of rewards in order to keep them doing the thing you want them to do. If you want to get super nerdy about his methods and how it affects animals vs humans, Wikipedia is a decent enough place to start.
Anyway, we see this reflected in FIFA.
What does FUT want you to do? It wants you to engage with the game, aka play it and maybe open some packs.
So you grind all week, seemingly barely making any progress because the rewards are timed. Once the rewards drop, you get happy or frustrated. Happy because you just “instantly” increase your coin total and maybe got a good item.
Frustrated because you could have gotten something better.
But in the back of your mind, you have internalized that “if I play this game for X amount of time, I should get Y rewards” and you continue to grind.
Fun fact - Valerio’s adorable dog has been trained this way, like many others. Valerio varies what reward Goten gets for desired behaviors, ranging from treats to petting. So now Goten is glued to Valerio because Goten recognizes he will always get something. Sorry to ruin the magic of dogs (they’re my favorite too), but that’s how they work. Don’t worry, they still love you for reals.
As humans, we’re obviously more advanced in rational thinking, but we’re still irrational creatures. Once you get hooked on rewards, it’s very difficult to stop yourself. Think about how many times FUT has upset you, and think about how you continued playing anyway.
Now obviously you’ll have some people that can break through this type of repeat behavior or not fall into it to begin with. But are they in the majority? I have no clue.
But it’s clear that the rewards cycle turns FUT players into people who are willing to do anything to maybe get something good in their rewards. They’ll engage in toxic behavior like time wasting from their first goal to sending you hateful messages. All because they’re thirsting for their next hit.
But it’s even more interesting to see what happens in groups of people, as opposed to just individuals acting out.
FUT’s Design Can Make Large Groups Of People Feel Powerless And Apathetic
In the 1950s, Solomon Asch discovered that people will ignore the truth in a group environment.
In one of the most famous experiments you’ll hear about, a group of people simply had say which of the 3 lines was the longest.
This was not a trick question, but parts of the group gave the wrong answer on purpose (they were told to do so). When these people gave the wrong answers in unison, it caused the real subjects of the experiments to also go with the wrong answer. They conformed to something that wasn’t true.
We see this reflected in the hardcore FIFA community.
As I mentioned before, FUT’s design makes you thirst for rewards. As a result, most prominent people in the scene focus on rewards in the forms of pack openings, insane amounts of FIFA points, etc. It’s not really out of malice, but the end result is not positive.
This gets thrown onto the rest of the community. If you see enough hype pack openings, you will be more likely to continue grinding even if you don’t want to. Or you might even think about buying FIFA points yourself.
Because the FIFA scene mirrors FUT’s design, it’s hard to find super popular communities and content creators that aren’t all about the packs and rewards. This is why pack opening videos are so huge. And this is why a lot of the community will put up with all sorts of gameplay and structural problems.
Every now and then you see something like the #FIXFIFA movement, but if you dig into it, a lot of people within it are actually just complaining about rewards. They drown out the people who want to help improve the game.
WIthout realizing it, FUT and the community around it causes people to internally feel powerless and apathetic. Think about how many times you’ve thought “they’ll never change it” or seen such a sentiment online. As a result, not enough people speak up. And the people that do speak up are often full of rage and burnout, so it’s hard to take them seriously in any way.
FUT’s design directly influences a part of the toxicity found in our community.
And as we know from the bystander effect, people generally don’t take action until someone else takes action (sounds weird, right?).
So What’s Next?
Well, in the short term, things are great for FUT in the business sense. Generally speaking, once you establish predictable behavior from your customers, you’re set as a business.
However, the manner in which FUT does this is not sustainable. It causes people to burn out and crash out of the game over time. Some will become addicts, and some will stay casual.
But it’s undeniable that FUT dies down in popularity after 3 - 4 months on the market. Over time, this number will get shorter. We’ve arguably seen that already with the past 2 games. Every single AAA game that’s ever had psychological hooks like FIFA has died out in time.
Just take a look at Destiny. It started off so promising, turned into an insane extreme of the aforementioned points, and then they had to basically rework the 2nd game.
Even look at World of Warcraft. It peaked many years ago as a temporary king of online gaming, and it’s been declining ever since.
More and more games take the FIFA approach these days. More and more games burn out players and in some cases drain their money. There is a hard cap on how often you’re burned before you give up.
The thing is, FUT already make around a billion dollars every year. What will happen when this number starts to decrease over time? Shareholders will obviously want more financial success, but will this come at the sacrifice of game quality?
Call me naive all you want, but a happy and loyal customer base is better than a decade or 2 of incredible profit. You’ll end up making more money in the long term, plus your customers will actually be fans and promoters.
And how do you make the customer happy? By giving them what they actually want. Customers don’t always know what they want, but it’s the company’s job to figure that out.
In the case of FIFA though, we all know what people want.
Meaningful gameplay upgrades, a variety of well maintained modes, the freedom to experiment in FUT, more social/friendly features, better server performance, and competitive scene not tied to FIFA points.
Yep, so a little bit of everything. But hey, you can always focus on these things 1 at a time instead of building half-baked systems into every area, causing more problems down the road.