FIFA 20 Ultimate Team Pros Colluded for Months to Maximize Winnings

EA Sports: It's in the (secret Discord server fixing the) Game.

A prominent member of the FIFA 20 Ultimate Team community has exposed a secret Discord server used by pros to nefariously schedule favorable matches and organize harassment campaigns against up-and-coming streamers. Nick Bartels, aka RunTheFutMarket, suffered an unexpected disconnection during a pivotal FIFA 20 Ultimate Team Weekend League match, which set off a sequence of events that would eventually culminate in the below YouTube exposé.

As Bartels discusses in the video, Ultimate Team pros have for months used a secret Discord server to schedule their matches during Weekend League events, in an effort to make sure that no high-level player queues for a match at the same time as another high-level player. This ensured that the pros gaming the system would only get matched against common plebeians, all but guaranteeing a flawless victory and the maximum amount of prizes from EA. Weekend League prize opening videos are as good as gold for FIFA 20 content creators, especially for those who earn the highest-tier prizes available.

Bartels became a target of this shadowy cabal when his Weekend League win-streak put him on course to enter the Ultimate League’s Top 100 — a coveted and dangerous position for someone not involved in the conspiracy to have. Bartels was provided screenshots of the secret Discord server by an acquaintance, which showed a concerted effort within the Discord to match against Bartels in an attempt to end his win streak. Prior to this revelation, Bartels had posited on Twitter that his unfortunate disconnection had been the work of a malicious actor using a forced disconnection glitch.

Many professional, sponsored players are shown participating in the secret Discord in Bartels’ video, including Christopher Holly, aka NYC_Chris, one of the world’s most prominent FIFA 20 Ultimate Team players who, thus far, has been the only player punished by EA for their involvement in the scheme. Holly is barred from entering the next two FIFA 20 Global Series qualifiers “in response to encouraging experienced players to avoid match-making at the same time as the player to gain a competitive advantage,” according to EA.

Regarding the targeted harassment of Bartels’ stream, EA said that it also investigated “harassment as part of a coordinated effort to match with streamers during the Weekend League, unrelated to a competitive advantage,” and that “final warnings for those confirmed to have taken part in these activities were issued and cover future instances of similar behavior.”

For those unfamiliar, Ultimate Team is a secondary (but unbelievably popular) mode in the FIFA series where users build a soccer team out of player cards that they receive from randomized booster packs, which can be purchased with in-game currency or real-world dough. Ultimate Team prints money for EA, and while successful, it’s also considered one of the most egregious instances of gambling-style hooks and microtransaction bleeding in modern video games. FIFA 18 was one of four games (along with Overwatch, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Star Wars Battlefront 2) determined by the Belgian government to constitute illegal gambling, and subsequent titles have further contributed to a growing amount of global lootbox legislation.