Has the FIFA power creep finally gone too far?

Has the FIFA power creep finally gone too far?
Images via EA Sports

Written by 

Harry Boulton

Published 

7th Dec 2022 16:08

FIFA's Ultimate Team game mode (commonly referred to as FUT) is all about the grind. Grinding objectives, grinding the market, grinding Division Rivals, and most importantly, grinding FUT Champions.

However, in the background, that grind is gradually losing its value as the rewards become increasingly more meaningless. And this is largely due to the increase of power creep.

If you've not heard of the term before, or are generally unsure of what it indicates, power creep is the relative devaluing of old content as new content gets released.

While the initial content might have been exciting at the time it first released, it can very quickly become outdated and outclassed by new and more powerful content that is released to further entice the player and keep them engaged.

Of course, power creep is only natural within individual FIFA cycles as new, more powerful cards are progressively released, crescendoing in an explosion of top-of-the-scale players at the end of each year. It's how this power creep grows across each subsequent FIFA title that has been revealed to be a rather worrying trend, and perhaps an indication that things have gone a bit too far.

Looking at the market

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One of the easiest ways to evaluate the power creep within FUT is to look at the market, as it is ultimately the tool that dictates the value of each player. One caveat to consider with this comparison is that this is the first year with a merged market, so player prices will inevitably be lower due to higher supply. However, the effect of power creep is undeniable on the state of the transfer market.

As of the start of December, there were just three gold cards worth over 100,000 Coins on the market - Kylian Mbappé at 1.06M, Neymar Jr. at 225k, and finally Virgil van Dijk at 119k. While we cannot see an overall picture of the market in previous FIFA titles at a certain point in time, we can instead look at specific player prices to get a general sense of comparison.

While he has dropped 200k year-on-year, MbappĂ© is still very much the meta, so he has generally held his price well. With players like Neymar and Van Dijk though, it is far more evident. 

Looking between FIFA 22 and FIFA 23, Neymar's price on the exact same day is dramatically different. While he is 225k right now on the FIFA 23 market, he was 587k at this point last year, which is a remarkable shift. Comparatively, looking at Van Dijk over a longer period of time shows a 472,000 coin difference between FIFA 23 and FIFA 20.

While this dramatic price shift is partly down to several different factors like the aforementioned merged market, or an increased number of rewards, it shows a worrying trend in the long-term value of gold cards.

Even the top cards at the start of the game can only hold their value for so long, as new and more powerful promo cards arrive to steal their thunder - and this is not a new thing either, as promo cards were just as abundant in FIFA 20, but their strength has only slowly increased.

Promotional propositions

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Promo cards are exciting - of course they are - but they have arguably reached a point where they are slowly devaluing the game in the long term. It is purposeful that special cards come in and are stronger than the majority of the regular options, as otherwise, there would be no point in picking them up, and no desire to grind towards obtaining them.

However, EA has unfortunately fallen into the trap of power creep with these promo cards, which is very difficult to escape from. In essence, to get people excited, you need to release cards that appear better than before, thus creating a cycle of increasingly dominant cards that make those that came before seem outdated.

As mentioned, this is largely an acceptable practice when isolated within single game cycles, but it, unfortunately, bleeds progressively into subsequent releases. Looking at the Rulebreakers promo this year, EA released an Argentinian player from LaLiga, who was two points away from having all face stats over eighty - a feat that used to be incredibly rare.

In past FIFA titles, you would expect this card to be very desirable, yet within a week of his release, Lucas Robertone was worth just 30,000 Coins.

This further extends to Team of the Week cards, which have been a foundation of FUT for well over a decade now. Beyond the first few weeks, very few people actually care about TOTW cards outside of various SBCs, almost reaching the point of annoyance more than anything. 

While many players have been calling for a TOTW reform in recent years in an effort to boost the effectiveness of the cards, it would perhaps be a mistake to further feed the power creep.

Making TOTW players - cards that release every single week - as strong as current promo cards would only further push EA to boost future promo cards, emboldening the problem that has unfortunately ensnared FUT as a game mode.

The other side of the coin

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Is this really a bad thing, though? We get a barrage of exciting new players that just keep getting better and better, and the market reaches a point where even the casual players can pick up the top cards.

Even if you're not looking at the top 'meta' cards, there is something to be said for being able to pick up strong cards for discard prices, with 'budget' teams being able to go a very long way at this point.

However, the critical feature of power creep is exactly the type of thing it leaves behind. While you might now be able to pick up cards that in previous years would have been dominant for cheap, their relative quality level has been vastly diminished, hence the reason why they are cheap in the first place. 

As tricky as the market often is, it is undeniable in evaluating which cards are good, and those are unfortunately the ones whose prices are still sky high. Because these top cards are so difficult to pack in the first place, it leaves many places unable to build up a suitable coin total in order to afford them with the rest of the cards on offer not worth much.

Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is that the power creep is largely irreversible. FIFA fortunately has the luxury of having a yearly blank slate, whereas other games are more rigidly stuck with their own decisions, but I doubt players will be that happy going back to weaker cards on the whole.

To answer the question of whether the FIFA power creep has gone too far really just boils down to your own perception of balance within FUT. If you enjoy the end-of-year chaos that is found within mega-boosted players then notions of power creep might not end up bothering you. However, if you're a fan of the gradual grind, with consistent goals to work towards and achieve, then you're probably already feeling the effects.

Harry is a Guides Writer at GGRecon, having completed a Masters of Research degree in Film Studies. Previously a freelance writer for PCGamesN, The Loadout, and Red Bull Gaming, he loves playing a wide variety of games from the Souls series to JRPGs, Counter-Strike, and EA FC. When not playing or writing about games and hardware, you're likely to find him watching football or listening to Madonna and Kate Bush.

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