FUT (FIFA Ultimate Team) is the most popular game mode in FIFA, with ‘Seasons’ being the most popular game mode in FUT. However, it’s also the most frustrating! As opposed to a real divisional structure, seasons feels more like a ride on an elevator – you’re up, then you’re down. The Internet is full of depressing stories about people being relegated all the way from division 2 to division 7, in a duration of 10 seasons. Something like this would never happen in the real world of football, unless there was a bankruptcy involved. So, why does it happen in FIFA? I decided to figure this out, and here is what I found out…
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What is a season?
In real life football, a typical division consists of roughly 20 teams, which play each other twice a year. That’s 38 matches in total, and all teams generally face the same, if not a similar level of opposition.
FUT seasons has to be different, since you can’t play all the 200,000 other people currently residing within your division during a year. Instead, the game picks 10 random opponents for you, meaning that you have your own little tournament going on.
As for whom you get to play, it’s a bit of a mystery. We know that some of the criteria are (1) timing (the other user has to be around at the same time as you), (2) connectivity, (3) divisional status and presumably (4) ELO rankings when selecting your next opponent.
Another essential difference is that relegations and promotions aren’t decided by your final position in a table. Since there is no table, your fate is decided by your ability to make enough points to make it above three thresholds: Stay, Promotion and Title.
If we were to project this on to real life, we would have a team playing 10 matches against random opponents picked among the 98 clubs currently residing in the five big, European leagues. In order to stay in your current division, you would need at least X points. Almost no matter how good you are, it becomes crucial whether you have a lucky pull or not… Sometimes, you get all the relegation candidates. Sometimes, you get ten opponents from the upper layers.
Luck 1 – Skill 0
A season consisting of just 10 matches against random opponents is a very small sample, and the problem with small samples essentially applies here as well: They are unreliable!
You may win 7 out of your next 10 matches but lose 60 out of your next 100 matches, meaning that there is a large risk that a season isn’t representative to the player’s actual capability. As a consequence, it becomes quite random whether you get relegated or promoted.
To illustrate how much this actually matters, I ran a small simulation in a spread sheet for five different player profiles. Each player profile has a certain skill level characterised by a certain set of win / lose probabilities, which for the sake of simplicity remains constant, no matter which division the player is in.
As seen below, most profiles with the exception of Eric, the beginner, will experience between 9 and 12 promotions or relegations througout 20 seasons. This is of course in direct contrast to real life football where the majority of the teams won’t get promoted or relegated at all in 20 seasons.
|Skill level||Expert||Above average||Average||Below average||Beginner|
|Relegations / 20 seasons||0,0||2,0||3,0||3,9||1,3|
|Promotions / 20 seasons||9,0||10,2||9,3||7,8||1,4|
So, you’re in division 2?
Earlier I mentioned that promotions and relegations are decided by whether your point earnings within the current season meets certain thresholds. Considering that these thresholds increase between division 10 and division 1, the natural expectation would be that they would make division 4 harder than division 6 and so on. While this may be true to some extent, the fact remains that the thresholds for division 4 and division 6 are exactly the same.
|10||>= 9 points|
|9||<=5 points||>=10 points|
On top of that, there is an even weightier issue: Please take a look at the relegation criteria for division 6 and division 2. You will notice that it takes 12 points (4 wins per 10 matches) to stay in division 2 and 9 points (3 wins in 10) to stay in division 6.
In truth, it only takes a minor drop in performance or bad luck to plummet from division 2 back into the lower divisions.
And it’s the same for everybody else…
Luck in matchmaking is a crucial factor in determining your divisional status, and small deviations in matchmaking-luck or performance may cause streaks of promotions or relegations, meaning that it becomes quite random where you end up. Needless to say, the same goes for almost everyone playing FIFA: Independent of their actual skill levels, the majority of FIFA players will cycle up and down between various divisions.
To understand the full implications of this, take a look at the simulation below, which covers 100 average players (i.e. players like Chris above). The natural expectation would be that all the Average Chris’s of this world would end up in roughly the same division, and more specifically division 5. As it turns out, they don’t…
The chart above illustrates an important point: Players with similar skills will be spread over a considerable amount of divisions.
Firstly, this means that divisions will become more similar to each other difficulty-wise than you would usually expect, and secondly, they will also become more internally diverse difficulty-wise, because they will contain players from many different skill segments.
My first season, your fifth
Needless to say, the probability of being in division 1 increases over time due to the fact that you start in division 10. Since players don’t complete their seasons in the same tempo, players with similar skill levels will be spread even more across the various divisions. Below, I ran the same simulation as above, but this time I let 100 players with each of the player profiles complete a random number of seasons between 0 and 30.
The picture below is probably fairly realistic when it comes to illustrating the actual distribution of players within divisions.
A few final thoughts
To summarise, here are a few recommendations:
- Don’t expect seasons to be consistent.
- Don’t assume that your divisional status tells anything about how good you are.
- Don’t expect FUT’s divisions to be anything like real divisions.
- If you want to be in division 1, continue playing. You will get there sooner or later, if you have the required skills.
Is it a problem that seasons is like an elevator ride?
Personally, I think it is. I would prefer to see my divisional status depend less on skill and more on my personal capability. The easy way to solve this would be to increase the season length. This would make each division more consistent and also increase the gap between divisions. There could be other options as well, so please feel free to share your thoughts, questions and comments.