FIFA 'dynamic difficulty' lawsuit dropped after plaintiffs talk to EA's engineers

FIFA Ultimate Team
(Image credit: EA Sports)

In November 2020, Electronic Arts was hit with a class action lawsuit alleging that its patented Dynamic Difficulty Adjustment technology was being used in games like FIFA Ultimate Team to push players into buying loot boxes. The plaintiffs claimed that the system adjusts player stats behind the scenes to make them seem weaker in the game than their listed abilities might suggest, which would nudge people into springing for player packs in hopes of finding someone better to add to their lineup.

"This is a self-perpetuating cycle that benefits EA to the detriment of EA Sports gamers, since Difficulty Adjusting Mechanisms make gamers believe their teams are less skilled than they actually are, leading them to purchase additional Player Packs in hopes of receiving better players and being more competitive," the lawsuit claimed.

Today, however, EA announced that the lawsuit has now been withdrawn, saying that the plaintiffs dismissed their claims after it provided them with "detailed technical information and access to speak with our engineers."

"While EA does own a patent for DDA technology, that technology never was in FIFA, Madden or NHL, and never will be," it said in a statement. "We would not use DDA technology to give players an advantage or disadvantage in online multiplayer modes in any of our games and we absolutely do not have it in FIFA, Madden or NHL."

This lawsuit wasn't the first time that EA has faced suspicions that FIFA difficulty cheats in response to player performance, but it has always denied that any behind-the-scenes shenanigans are afoot. In response to a pretty detailed question on the topic posted to Reddit in 2017, creative director Matt Frior told Eurogamer that while the game's algorithm does allow for some element of random chance in outcomes—sometimes even a superstar footballer is going to biff it—there "absolutely isn't" a system in place that's designed to react to player performance.

If you'd like a look at the full patent that EA holds on "Dynamic Difficulty Adjustment," here it is.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.