FIFA is the biggest-selling football game in the world, and a massive part of that is Ultimate Team.
Initially launched within FIFA 2009 as a downloadable add-on, Ultimate Team has played a huge part in making the game a truly global juggernaut, and has launched the careers of many YouTube stars.
With FIFA 18 now on the horizon ahead of a late September release, Goal breaks down everything we know so far about the card-trading mode that will, undoubtedly, steal your life for days and weeks at a time.
WHAT IS ULTIMATE TEAM?
Ultimate Team is, at its base, an online trading game. Players build teams of players from across the globe – ranging from the Premier League to the Chilean top-flight – and then attempt to gain promotion from Division 10 to Division One.
The better your team, the better you are likely to be, making the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi some of the most expensive cards on the online market that is populated by other gamers.
Those cards – sorted into Bronze, Silver and Gold – are purchasable on a transfer market, but they can also be found in packs. One can use real money or coins to buy packs – EA Sports regularly releases promotional packs featuring more players and in-form players, the latter of which are based on real-life performances – but coins must be used to buy players.
Playing games, both against real players and the computer, rewards players with coins, as does entering a mode called FUT Champions, which ranks players over the course of 40 games in a “Weekend League”. Finishing in the top 100 – while incredibly difficult – will throw up some quite wonderful rewards.
HOW IS IT DIFFERENT THIS YEAR?
Icons are making their way into FIFA! Formerly known as Legends and exclusive to the Xbox One, this year Icons will be available on PS4 and PC too, and have shiny blue cards, unlike the white counterparts for Legends.
So far, the Brazilian Ronaldo, Diego Maradona, Lev Yashin, Thierry Henry and Pele have been announced, meaning they’ll be in packs – though incredibly rare – and available on the market, surely for a hefty sum.
Furthermore, EA Sports are making inroads into the competitive gaming scene, and want to make Ultimate Team an eSport, having already started with FUT Champions.
The finals of the 2017 season’s championships were broadcast live on BT Sport, and seen by an audience of millions on YouTube.
ARE THERE ULTIMATE TEAM PRE-ORDER BONUSES?
Yes, there are.
On Xbox One, Playstation 4 and PC, gamers can choose between three different versions of the game.
The Standard Edition – priced at £59.99 – offers five Ultimate Team Jumbo Premium Gold Packs, one per week for five weeks, a Cristiano Ronaldo FUT Loan Player for five matches and eight specially designed FUT kits, imagined by soundtrack artists for the game.
The Ronaldo Edition – priced at £79.99 – offers 20 Jumbo Premium Gold Packs, over 20 weeks, as well as the Ronaldo loan and the kits, and also allows gamers to play three days prior to release date, from September 26.
And the Icon Edition – priced at £89.99 – offers 40 Jumbo Premium Gold Packs, two per week over 20 weeks, Team Of The Week Loan Player Packs (that being one three match loan player for 20 weeks), a Cristiano Ronaldo loan player for five matches, a Ronaldo Nazario loan player for five matches and the kits.
If you play on Xbox 360 and PS3 you can buy the FIFA 18 Legacy Edition, which offers five Jumbo Premium Gold Packs, over five weeks, for the price of £49.99.
It’s unclear, at the time of writing, what will be on offer for players using the Nintendo Switch.
WILL THERE BE ANY NEW LEAGUES?
Nothing confirmed here yet, but the most likely addition is the Chinese Super League due to the number of high-profile stars that have headed east in recent months - and the potential for more to follow.
A recent poll of FIFA fans showed that the CSL, the Indian Super League and the German third division were most in demand, but there are no guarantees they will be chosen.
WHEN CAN I PLAY IT?
FIFA 18 will be released worldwide on Friday, September 29. As mentioned previously, there are two ways, however, to get your hands on the game early.
The first is to pre-order the 'Ronaldo Edition' or 'Icon Edition'.
They will be available to play on Tuesday, September 26, which is in line with EA's knack for going live on a late Tuesday in September.
If that's not soon enough you'll need to sign up to EA Access (Xbox One) or Origin Access (PC), both of which cost either £3.99 ($4.99) a month or £19.99 ($29.99) a year. That will get you 10 hours of trial play time from Thursday, September 21.
If you're a PlayStation 4 player, the September 26 date is the earliest you will be able to play.
WHAT ABOUT THE WEB APP?
The FIFA web app is an online application which allows FIFA players to manage their Ultimate Team away from their console.
Users can access their squads, consumables and club items as well as the FUT store, transfer market and leaderboards. Essentially, you can buy and sell players, open packs and manage your squad without having to switch on your PS4 or Xbox.
You'll have to pick up a controller to actually play games with your teams, of course.
The web app has become particularly popular because it is launched shortly before each year's FIFA is released, allowing players to get a head start in the Ultimate Team market. EA Sports often roll out daily gifts for those who sign up, including returning player packs and starter packs.
HOW CAN I ACCESS THE WEB APP?
You'll need to have signed up for an EA account that is linked to your FIFA profile, which you can then use to log in and access your Ultimate Team squads.
WHEN IS IT AVAILABLE FOR FIFA 18?
According to FIFA fan site Ultimate Team, based on EA's release schedule in previous years the web app for FIFA 18 is likely to become available on the evening of Tuesday, September 19. That's around 36 hours before the game becomes available for EA Access and Origin members.
FIFA 18's full release will come 10 days later, on Friday, September 29. You can get your hands on the game earlier by pre-ordering the special Ronaldo or Icon editions, however, which will be available to play on Tuesday, September 26.