Two weeks ago, we reported what we thought was a big cryptocurrency mining operation using PS4s in Ukraine, but it may not have been a cryptocurrency mining operation. In a recent report by Delo.au, the PS4s, totaling over 3800 of them, were used as FIFA bots.
Over 3,800 PS4 Consoles Were Used As FIFA Bots To Level Accounts & Earn In-Game Currency To Buy Player Card Packs
The reporters from Delo.au were keen to notice disks in the tray of the consoles which is something that wouldn't be seen if these PS4s were used for mining. If we closely inspect the disks, you can barely make out the design of a FIFA 21 disk. This FIFA bot operation was discovered by Ukrainian officials because it was illegally drawing 5 to 7 million UAH (converts to 184,000 to 258,000 USD) worth of power from the grid.
FIFA is one of the most popular video games in the entire world and is developed by EA with the latest version of the game being FIFA 21. The FIFA franchise is listing in the Guinness Book of Records as the best-selling sports video game series in the world. A popular mode in FIFA is the FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT) mode. The FUT mode allows players to build their own team with cards that can be acquired in two ways. The first way is to buy card packs (loot boxes) which cost money and have an extremely low probability of getting good cards. Some countries like Belgium have banned this mechanic because it is comparable to gambling.
The second way to get these cards is to spend time playing matches in the FUT mode to earn enough in-game currency to buy these packs. Since these packs have a low probability of dropping a desirable player card, many packs have to be opened and to get enough in-game currency, many hours have to be played to get multiple packs. Players resort to spending money to buy these packs.
According to Daniel Ahmad, senior analyst at Niko Partners research company, 30% of EA's revenue is made on Ultimate Team (includes Madden, NHL, and FIFA, but FIFA brings in the most money) and EA is predicted to make $1.62 billion of Ultimate Team in 2021. Below are the figures for how much money Ultimate Team has made across the three sports franchises.
How much does EA earn from Ultimate Team across FIFA, Madden and NFL?
EA Net Revenue from Ultimate Team:
FY 2021: $1.62bn
FY 2020: $1.49bn
FY 2019: $1.37bn
FY 2018: $1.18bn
FY 2017: $775m
FY 2016: $660m
FY 2015: $587m
The majority is from FIFA Ultimate Team ofc. pic.twitter.com/xUbNUx6R62
— Daniel Ahmad (@ZhugeEX) May 26, 2021
The PS4s were likely being used as bots to level up accounts and get enough in-game currency by constantly playing to buy packs. These accounts with rare players or with a lot of in-game currency were being sold on account markets for players who wanted to open packs, but not pay the expensive prices EA was offering for its currency to buy packs. Even some EA employees have seized the opportunity to make some extra money on the side by selling rare player cards.
With the market of accounts in FIFA, these Ukrainian FIFA botters were making money by leveling accounts and accruing in-game currency, and then selling the accounts. Ultimately, the huge power draw from 3,800 PS4 consoles led to the shutdown of the operation.