(Pocket-lint) - EA has discovered "questionable activity" in its investigation into allegations that a staff member sold coveted FIFA 21 Ultimate Team cards for up to thousands of pounds.
Dubbed #EAGate on Twitter, where news of the scandal first surfaced on 10 March, unconfirmed direct messages show what appeared to be an EA employee (perhaps employees) selling the game's rarest cards in packages priced at €750 - €1000, converting roughly to £640/$900 - £850/$1200.
In another alleged exchange, three of the game's 'Prime Icon Moments' cards and two 'Team of the Season' cards were being offered for €1700 (£1450/$2000).
After swiftly launching an internal investigation, the company has now given an update on the progress. However, it still appears as if the matter is far from settled.
What is EAGate?
FIFA 21's most lucrative items - in terms of its own in-game currency - are allegedly being sold for cash.
Typically, users would only be able to acquire items from promotions such as EA's 'Prime Icon Moments' through in-game, randomised packs that include cards and other in-game consumables. Some promotions also reward the user with coveted cards after they complete a series of in-game objectives.
Naturally, the allegations suggest a grave imbalance within the game's competition and economy, with the potential buyers able to essentially leapfrog most of the user base by paying real-world money.
How did EAGate claims surface?
A number of tweets on 10 March, seen below, show discussions between some users and the seller, purportedly an EA employee.
So we grind/trade/open packs and can’t touch these PIM players but EA employees sell them to people secretly for $1,700?!?! LOL I respect the grind but my god... pic.twitter.com/CCnhjZbcgH— Nick (@Nick28T) March 10, 2021
Video proof?!? I mean this could just be an EA Dev though or an actual employee? Who knows anymore. It’s all allegations, let’s just hope EA makes a statement on this and stays honest with us. #FUT21 #FIFA21 pic.twitter.com/lzqGMDE5S3— Nick (@Nick28T) March 10, 2021
Has something like this happened before?
EA has faced criticism for Ultimate Team's use of loot boxes, which are a type of microtransaction in video games whereby a user can use real-world money to fund varying in-game rewards.
A simple Google search will also reveal a black market for FIFA coins, Ultimate Team's in-game currency, where users can buy or sell for real-world cash.
However, EAGate represents the first time the company has been embroiled in a scandal regarding allegations over the conduct of its own staff.
How has EA responded?
With platforms like Twitter and Reddit ablaze with chatter regarding EAGate, the company initially responded to the claims with this Tweet acknowledging the issue.
It has since provided a lengthier update via its Pitch Notes regarding the progress of the investigation.
"We have launched a rigorous investigation, narrowing how this may have happened and identifying those accounts which have received content through this illicit method," the company said.
"Our initial investigation shows questionable activity involving a very small number of accounts and items. Although it is not a large number, if these allegations prove out, this activity is unacceptable."
The statement also highlighted that discretionary content granting has been suspended indefinitely.
"We will permanently ban any accounts identified as receiving items transferred nefariously, and we have suspended all discretionary content granting for an indefinite period," it reads.
This typically relates to users who have suffered at the hands of a system error, but also affects even, say, the gifting of personal cards to professional footballers who play the game. It shows just how far EA is stretching to avoid any more breaches.