EA's Chris Bruzzo, who has the job title of chief experience officer, spoke to Eurogamer about some of the issues around FUT, and in the process dropped some figures that give you an idea of the scale here. Obviously Bruzzo emphasises that 9/10 FUT packs are opened by FUT Coins (earnable in-game currency), and 78% of the overall playerbase don't spend any money on the game beyond the initial purchase. He adds "30 million people played [FUT] last year, and 100 million in some form or another—mobile games and all over the world."
EA has also made changes to FUT packs in response to the increasing regulatory concern around loot boxes more generally: FIFA 22 includes probabilities for card packs, as well as FIFA Playtime which will allow individuals (and parents) to set their own restrictions.
That does lead, however, to perhaps the most serious issue around FUT. It is incredibly popular among a young audience. Bruzzo can say things like EA "actually want to treat [players] like full human beings who can make good decisions in their lives" but the whole 'choice' argument falls apart when we get to the question of kids. The EA line is, of course...
"Kids should not be spending in our game. Children should not be spending in FIFA," says Bruzzo. "[...] when we look at account signups we see a very low percentage of accounts of people under the age of 18. But more importantly, our default is set to no spending for accounts under 18. And we work with Sony and we work with Microsoft to also institute spending controls as a default for children. Kids should not be spending in FIFA full stop."
This itself exposes one of the absurdities of our current regulatory system, which is that FIFA 22 can, for example, get a 3+ rating in the UK—ie, it is an entertainment product suitable for all ages. Yet with that rating it is allowed to contain systems that, by the developer's own admission, should not be used by children. EA has even advertised FUT in childrens' magazines. "It was an oversight," says Bruzzo, "they included FIFA Ultimate Team in this toy catalogue. And we have apologised. We said it was a mistake. We do make mistakes."