In separate announcements this morning, EA Sports said gamers who begin Ultimate Teams on Madden NFL 25 or FIFA 14 for Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 may transfer all their cards to those games' versions on Xbox One and PS4, once those consoles release.
The transfer is not without limitation, but it's an acknowledgment that Ultimate Team diehards who plan to buy their console's successor in the coming year of release would be terribly disappointed to have to start a team over on the same version of the game. Still, it raises the question of why a transfer between console generations is possible, but one within different editions on the same console is not.
Money is, of course, the likely answer. Ultimate Team modes have driven enormous microtransaction revenue to EA Sports since their introduction, and requiring players to start over each year is one way to keep that model in place. Requiring to start over in the same year would be clinically described as a dick move, hence the allowances announced today.
The transfers will be handled differently: FIFA's announcement says Ultimate Team players will be able to access their FIFA 14 Ultimate Team full roster, in-game items and FIFA Coins (which are different from FIFA Points) between Xbox One and Xbox 360, and PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3. It's essentially a 1:1 mirroring.
"All changes made in FIFA 14 Ultimate Team will be reflected in both consoles so fans will be able to compete with their squads on either console throughout the season." Further, players "will maintain their current division in Seasons mode on the new consoles," and teams will earn status points recognised on both platforms as well. Again, the reciprocity is between Xbox 360 and Xbox One only, and PS3 and PS4 only.
Ah, but what about the FIFA Points? That's the in-game currency bought outright in lots with real money. That may be transferred only one time from old console to new. FIFA Coins, the in-game currency earned through regular play, is as freely accessed between consoles as one's players and Ultimate Team items.
That's FIFA. Madden will work slightly differently. Anyone who starts an Ultimate Team on Madden for the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 4 may transfer everything he owns (it's capped at 100 active items — 55 players, 45 others — and 1,000 reserve items, but that should be plenty) from, again, Xbox 360 to Xbox One, or PS3 to PS4. That said, the teams will not mirror. While one who transfers his holdings from PS3 to PS4 won't lose them on PS3, they won't be automatically maintained either. They'll exist, essentially, as two different teams.
Further, Madden Coins, which are both earned freely through play as well as bought in lots for real money, cannot be transferred between console generations. So, again, the things you bought for real money can be transferred, but the money itself cannot.
This presents an interesting situation because NHL and NCAA Football both have Ultimate Team modes, NCAA's debuting this year. Neither series will be present at launch for the next console generation and will probably publish their first editions for them alongside the current console generation next year. It's unlikely either series will be afforded the same chance to transfer teams between generations.
Again, if EA Sports is willing to do the work to enable asset transfers between console generations — you can see, it took 600 words to explain in plain English what you can do — it's a legitimate question to ask why they don't enable transfers between editions on the same generation. As I said above, money is probably the answer.