Madden 21 has had plenty of well-documented problems. EA has largely come away unscathed thanks to their exclusivity to the football world, and because the players are largely segmented.
Franchise players don't really care about issues in Ultimate Team, and MUT players keep dollars rolling in to the EA accounts and couldn't care less about the staleness of Franchise Mode.
However, one issue in Ultimate Team this year could be a real worry for the wider place of the game mode...
Knocking away the ladder from free-play
Ultimate Team has thrived and survived because there is a viable path for players that don't spend money on packs to build a team and compete with those that are willing to put extra $$$ into the game.
The best path to big rewards for players within the game is Solo Battles.
Those that reach "Legend" score within the week of play receive 44,500 coins, 60 trophies, two hail mary packs, two midfield packs, and two redzone packs. That's another 70,000 coins if you take the quicksells, and more still if you just turn those trophies into packs.
That's a nice weekly income, the equivalent roughly of one 120,000 coins pack, which will set you back about $12. Doesn't sound like a lot, but over the months of playing MUT that's a big chunk of change.
The issue is that throughout Madden, 21 Solo Battles has been blighted with problems.
From being gated right at the start of the year to constant disconnection issues, incorrect rewards, and even days going missing from the challenge.
As a result, players that aren't spending money are falling behind faster than ever before in MUT, and it is starting to drive players away from the game mode.
An intentional move?
The worry for players, is if this trend is just a problem with Madden 21 or something that is intentional and will only get worse in Madden 22.
Given the problems Solo Battles has had this year, you could easily see EA justifiably remove the mode from MUT 22 completely.
And if they do, they simply may just remove the ability to solo grind from the game entirely.
There is a whole section of the MUT community that doesn't enjoy the endless money plays and meta cheese of the H2H Seasons and Weekend League. They rely on Solo Battles to be able to afford one of the latest cards or their next theme team upgrade.
If that community no longer has Solo Battles, or something similar, then it will simply disappear and take with it a key part of the MUT economy.
If those that do pay for packs have no one to sell their unwanted cards to, then it will start to crush the market and make for less fluidity and ultimately less fun.
Ultimate Team is approaching a crossroad moment given all the court cases going against it around the world, and if it abandons free-play gamers now then it will become harder and harder to justify the model that EA is so reliant on.