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FIFA Ultimate Team’s Team of the Year promotion perfectly encapsulates how it feels to be a fan of many Electronic Arts games: crushed, hopeless, under the weight of cruel microtransactions. I know this better than most because I have spent the last five years trying to pack even a single TOTY player with only tears and the memories of others celebrating to show for it.

This year would be different, though. This year, I could throw away $100 by making content out of the experience and potentially save others from suffering my fate.

Before I get into how I did though, it’s important to understand why the FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT) game mode has a promo like this and how much money it makes for EA. Since EA Sports has a stranglehold on the sports gaming market with the NFL, NHL and FIFA, the company has turned the microtransactions within these games into one of its biggest revenue streams. From 2018 to 2021 alone, just accounting for FUT microtransactions, EA made around $1.62 billion.

That’s because FUT’s Team of The Year events stuff 12 the rarest players with the highest attributes in the game into digital packs of cards. These players are often worth the most in game currency, often around one million coins, but there’s a less than 1% chance of pulling them in a pack according to EA. But the company never discloses the exact percentage chance and consumers aren’t guaranteed to get a TOTY player no matter how many packs’ they open.

Despite the low chance to pack these players, EA’s revenue shows people will pay regardless — even if they can’t resell them for real money or take those players with them when the newest FIFA comes out. In many ways, chasing these players is like lighting money on fire.

This is the probability displayed of a 100k pack usually worth 2,000 FIFA points
This is the probability displayed of a 100k pack usually worth 2,000 FIFA points. | Screenshot by Manny Gomez

With that being said, I decided to go all in on the “fun” microtransaction gamble and see if I could get any of these cards. Aside from adding 12,000 FIFA Points (the equivalent of $100), I also completed all promotional Squad Building Challenges (SBCs) in the hopes of getting a TOTY player from those packs. I figured if money didn’t work, perhaps time alone would be enough.

Now, $100 might seem excessive but that does not even come close to the amount of money some of the biggest content creators in the scene, like Castro_1021 and Bateson87, spend. They both had 500,000 and 951,000 FIFA points, respectively, which equals about $4,200 and $7,925. To put that into perspective you can buy a nose-bleed ticket for the Super Bowl at around $7,612.

A picture showing my starting balance and saved packs
A picture showing my starting balance and saved packs. | Screenshot taken by Manny Gomez

This journey began with me sitting in my home office on Jan. 21 at the start of TOTY, which begins its two-week-long event by offering three lucrative attackers: Lionel Messi, Robert Lewandowski or the kid wonder, Kylian Mbappe. To get the three players you will either have to open a pack and be lucky enough to have them in there or or buy them from the market, with the cheapest being 870,000 coins.

Now, how I decided to spend my 12,000 FIFA points depended on a couple of things. If I wanted to open the sheer maximum amount of packs, I could get up to 80. However, these packs only included a minimum of three players guaranteed per pack.

I could also spend my FIFA points on six-packs that have 24 rare gold players. However, those six-packs would have to be split between the three mini releases, each being a different window of unique TOTY players, lessening the possibility of getting a player I’d want.

Of course, I could have also used some of the in-game currency or coins to open these packs, but that’s usually ill-advised due to the low chance of making coins back from the players that come in those packs.

Within the first two days, I spent more than half of the 12,000 FIFA points on a total of four packs. This included a Rare Players Pack (worth 50,000 coins) valued at 1,000 FIFA points, two Jumbo Rare Players Packs (100,000 coins) valued at 2,000 FIFA points and an 85+ Star Player pack (which guarantees one player rated at 85 or higher) valued at 1,400 FIFA Points.

While I did spend more than half my budget on attackers, that amount pales in comparison to the collective 720k FIFA points Castro and Bateson spent before Castro packed two of the three attackers.

On Day 1, I didn’t open anything of significance, so I decided to skip the second day and save some of my resources. Even though I could have spent my money on just the attackers, I wanted to have a chance to see how my luck fared with the Midfielders and Defenders. On Day 3, the attackers went back into the vault and EA released the three midfielders. I then opened more packs to nothing amazing.

The desperation started to creep in as I saw some players on Twitter posting insane things like three TOTY players in one pack. This time, I decided to spend my FIFA points on two 85+ Star player packs, leaving me 2,800 FIFA Points left. With nothing to show after, the chances of packing a TOTY looked grim.

On Monday Jan. 27, EA gave the community a treat. They handed everyone upgraded SBCs, which meant that if players traded 11 rare gold cards, they could get a pack that contained 12 players from a specific league. These packs could only be accessed through the SBC system and there was no way to buy them in the store. I crafted around 30 upgrade packs and opened zero special cards.

On Jan. 28, EA released the last batch of players, the defenders. These are usually the less expensive cards but players still strive to get them. My last remaining 2,800 FIFA Points go in and, with only a couple of high-rated players to show for all my money, the last of the $100 disappeared into the slimy gambling machine that is FIFA 22.

However, my mission was not yet over. I went in on all the possible upgrade packs and crafted a total of 50 Ligue 1 Upgrade packs. They were my last chance at pulling a TOTY player.

Then, partway into cracking them, I saw him flash across my screen: TOTY Gianluigi Donnarumma. He stared back at me, marking a temporary end to my suffering.

I let loose a shout, shaking the walls of my office as five years’ worth of suffering flowed out of my lungs. Was he the cheapest player available from the promo? Sure. But he also came home through sheer effort, without requiring a single cent.
It’s ironic, but despite grinding for packs taking time, that’s where I found success. If I had just done the SBCs and not spent, I would have still opened Donnarumma.

As is customary, I instantly posted my pull on some of my Discord channels to get those sweet sweet reactions from friends. And while they were sweet, they didn’t equal the money I had spent to get them.

TOTY Gianluigi Donnarumma shows his face from an upgrade pack.
TOTY Gianluigi Donnarumma shows his face from an upgrade pack. | Screenshot taken by Manny Gomez

If this story doesn’t make the lesson clear, it probably isn’t worth spending money the way I did, unless you value your time a lot more than I do. It must undoubtedly be fun for content creators to drop hundreds of thousands of FIFA Points to pull every TOTY player, that isn’t a realistic way to live.

In truth, it’s just the way EA has poisoned our brains. As a mere journalist, a man of the people, this experiment showed me that grinding the game is just better than giving EA even more money — even if it takes five years to pack a TOTY player.