Update: EA has provided a statement regarding the bug to GamesBeat. "Thanks to the FUT community for raising awareness of a potential fitness and chemistry inconsistency in some FUT items," it reads.
"After hearing this, our teams were in over the weekend and continue to thoroughly investigate the information. We will keep you informed with updates from the investigation. Our commitment to a fun, fair, and secure experience in FIFA is ongoing, and as a community your feedback helps us achieve that goal. A special thanks for your continuous efforts across all channels.”
First, some context. FIFA Ultimate Team is a mode in which you collect cards of various football players and assemble your dream team. Boosters can be bought for real cash, and specific players traded for wads of in-game currency. Players synergise with others to boost their performance, indicated by their 'Chemistry' stat, prompting some to spend big money searching for the most compatible line-up. Accordingly, EA does extremely well out of Ultimate Team. Across its various sports franchises, the mode brings in about $650 million a year.
However, a feeling has always existed that the best players on paper do not offer the best performance on the pitch. The sensation is so pervasive it has become known as 'handicapping'. Excellent players feel sluggish and slow to react, and though it could be the product of a bug or deliberate balancing, EA has never commented to confirm its existence.
Now the fans have proved it with help from the 'Dribbling' stat. Above a skill threshold, players can perform an advanced dribble. YouTuber RighteousOnix took a 'day-one' (basic version) player whose Dribbling was below the threshold and used Chemistry to raise it. Thus the player was able to perform the advanced move. All well and good.
He then took a special edition of that player. By default, he was also below the Dribbling threshold. But even with improved Chemistry, his Dribbling never rose past the level necessary to pull off the move.
Either due to a bug or hidden mechanic, the rare variant performed worse than the basic variety. Players have been investing hundreds of pounds on cards that perform worse than they should on paper.
Intentional or not, EA needs to clarify the interactions underpinning Ultimate Team to allow its customers to make informed decisions. These purchases are far from 'micro' transactions.