Electronic Arts is adding a new feature to FIFA 21 called Playtime that the patch notes say will "enable players to have more control and visibility over how they play." Those tools, EA said in a follow-up blog post, will enable players to set parental control-style limits on how much time and money they spend on the game.
"FIFA Playtime gives you an overview of the amount of time you’ve spent in FIFA 21 and lets you set limits on how you play," EA explained. "You’ll be able to choose how many matches you can jump into, the amount of FIFA Points you purchase and the number of FUT Packs opened with FUT Coins or purchased with FIFA Points."
"The integration of both tracking and limits in FIFA Playtime is grounded in research that shows that having access to more information helps players feel comfortable with how they play. When combined with smart prompts to guide choices, players were able to better find a comfortable balance in their gaming. We will continue to evolve and adapt these tools and resources to give you even more ways to shape your gaming experience."
The first thing that leapt to mind when I read about the option to self-impose limits on coin and pack purchases was a ridiculous battery-operated cigarette case I bought many years ago that would only open at user-specified intervals, ostensibly to ration cigarettes for those who didn't have the willpower to do it themselves. It was a complete waste—whenever the urge struck, I'd just pop the batteries, take a smoke, and then put the batteries back in and promise myself I'd do better next time—and I wondered if EA had figured out how to keep willing-but-weak FUT fanatics from doing the same thing.
Protecting players from themselves is not actually the intent of these new tools, an EA rep explained. "There is no function to prevent players from overriding those limits. The goal of FIFA Playtime is to give players more visibility into how much time they spend in the game, versus actively controlling how they play," they explained. "EA is focused on giving players the necessary tools/resources to shape how they play if they want."
The FIFA Playtime website indicates the same: You can set whatever limits you like, but you won't be cut off when you reach them, you'll just be given a notification that maybe it's time to take a break.
FIFA Playtime will also include mobile and web-based companion apps, and should be live on PC by the time you read this. (Console versions will follow next week.) That timing is surely coincidental, but still interesting: EA is currently facing at least two loot box-related lawsuits, one filed in October complaining that the presence of loot boxes in its games amounts to "an unlicensed, illegal gaming system," and a second reported today alleging that it manipulates difficulty in EA sports games to encourage the purchase of loot boxes.