Giant PS4 farm stole $250K power a month to ‘mine’ FIFA — not Ethereum

A suspected illegal cryptocurrency mining operation busted earlier this month by Ukrainian authorities was actually churning out FIFA’s in-game token. 

An investigation by the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) uncovered the 3,800 strong PlayStation-powered setup using $250,000 per month in illegally extracted energy.

According to Tom’s Hardware, the suspected mining pool could’ve potentially mined Ether — but those behind the set up were really after FIFA 21’s in-game token FUT (not a cryptocurrency).

SBU images revealed the size of the PlayStation powered operation.

After a closer look by local media, what the SBU initially believed to be a cryptocurrency mining farm was later revealed to be a “grind factory” for FIFA 21, a popular football video game.

According to delo.ua, the 3,000-plus PS4 Slims were automated to accrue FIFA 21’s in-game currency — with a goal of selling it on a secondary market.

To afford the “top team” in FIFA 21 (which includes “icon level” players like Pelé and Diego Maradonna) reportedly costs over 100 million FUT.

  • The price of FUT fluctuates: at FIFA 21’s launch in October 2020, 1 million FUT was worth about $100.
  • Protos found 1 million FUT for sale online for prices ranging from $45 and $70.
  • This means that top FIFA 21 team would cost between $4,500 to $7,500 right now.
The price of 400K FUT temporarily spiked in March, according to PlayerAuctions.com.

In March, Game.com calculated 1 million FUT could be bought legitimately for around $500 via EA’s web store.

EA says FUT boxes aren’t gambling

On average, the game pays out 1,500 FUT per winning game, so players often turn to secondary markets to get their FUT fix.

  • FUT tokens reward players after completing in-game objectives or winning games. Players can also top-up using real world cash.
  • FIFA 21 players can buy and sell footballers on an in-game transfer market, which allows trading with other players.
  • Players can also buy packs within FIFA 21 — the more expensive packs have better chance of receiving a legendary player like Pelé.

In April, FIFA 21 distributor EA denied it promoted gambling among players. Leaked internal document appeared to expose EA’s plan to drive gamers towards FIFA Ultimate Team mode (which enables the in-game marketplace).

Players buy packs in the hopes of bagging a top rated player, YouTubers rake in millions of views opening the packs on camera.

The grind

To grind in a game means spending time completing relatively easy tasks to level up your character (similar to leveling up a Pokémon before a Gym Battle).

So, in the case of the Ukrainian “grind factory,” thousands of PS4 Slims were apparently running FIFA bots to play endless games, accruing FUT coins for sale to other players seeking a headstart.

FIFA 21 players can spend hundreds of dollars topping up their account with FUT coins.

[Read more: Fake crypto mining apps took $350K from users before getting removed]

Crypto fans optimistic about PS4 mining

As noted by Tom’s Hardware, the PS4 Pro’s GPU has similar specs to the Radeon RX 580, which crypto miners often use to generate Ethereum.

In fact, the images would’ve served as the first solid evidence of PS4s leveraged to mine crypto at scale.

However, the PS4 Slim uses a smaller processor, so for now it still seems it’s more suited to grinding simulated football games than mining crypto.

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