After negative feedback, Blizzard is scrapping Overwatch 2‘s requirement for a non-prepaid phone for most players. The change should come into effect this Friday, October 7.
In a forum postBlizzard community manager Jodie wrote: “We designed Overwatch 2 to be a live service, which enables us to be responsive to a variety of player feedback. We have made the decision to remove phone number requirements for a majority of existing Overwatch players. Any Overwatch player with a connected Battle.net account, which includes all players who have played since June 9, 2021, will not have to provide a phone number to play. We are working to make this change and expect it to go live on Friday, October 7. We will update players once it is in effect.”
The SMS Protect system was intended to help curb cheating and disruptive behavior from players, and it will remain in effect for those making brand new accounts.
“Accounts that were not connected to Battle.net as well as new accounts will still have to meet SMS Protect requirements, which helps to ensure we’re protecting our community against cheating. If a player is caught engaging in disruptive behavior, their account may be banned whether they have a new account or not,” reads the statement.
The post ends by saying the team “will make further adjustments in this area if it is required.” The statement does not confirm whether the previous block on prepaid phone numbers has been removed, and we’ve asked Blizzard for comment.
Overwatch 2’s natural free-to-play should mean it’s accessible to all players with a compatible device. However, a side effect of a new security measure from Blizzard is leaving some users out in the cold.
Over on Twitter, user Jack Saint brought the community’s attention to Overwatch 2’s SMS Protect policy, which says all players must connect a phone number to their battle.net account to launch Overwatch 2.
blizzard isn’t letting people play overwatch 2 if they have… a prepaid phone plan?? pic.twitter.com/NkVOMuFGDJ
—Jack Saint (@lackingsaint) October 5, 2022
Blizzard made this news audience last week, but the players only began noticing on a larger scale after the game went live yesterday. According to a news release on Overwatch’s official website, the SMS Protect functionality is a solution to combat “both cheating and disruptive behavior” in Overwatch 2. Part of the release says the following:
“Starting October 4, 2022, all players across all platforms, including consoles, are required to have a phone number attached to their battle.net account to launch Overwatch 2. The same phone number cannot be used on multiple accounts at the same time, and players can’t use the same phone number to create multiple accounts. A phone number can only be used once when making a new account, and certain types of numbers, including pre-paid and VOIP, cannot be used for SMS Protect.”
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The part that’s causing problems is the last sentence, where it says prepaid phone plans are not eligible for SMS Protect. Prepaid phone plans, from companies like Cricket Wireless, require users to pay the bill before receiving service. These plans also rarely require a contract, making them a more attractive option for people who can’t afford or don’t want to spend as much money on a contract phone plan from Verizon or T-Mobile. Unfortunately, these are the people Overwatch 2 is currently excluding because of the SMS Protect requirement.
For example, in a post on r/Overwatchone user said this phone requirement made them feel bad about having a prepaid phone plan, writing in part, “I’m really upset and oddly ashamed for not meeting this ‘standard’. Never thought I would be disqualified from playing overwatch based on my ability [to] afford a phone contract, but here we are… Blizzard is the first company to make me feel too poor to play a game.”
And, it’s not as if Overwatch fans with prepaid phone plans can even return to the original game, either, as Blizzard shut down the Overwatch servers to prepare for the sequel’s launch this week. Rather, players who launch Overwatch will be prompted to update to Overwatch 2. Blizzard made the decision to shut down Overwatch 1 in order to retain a unified player base in the new game.
When IGN reached out for comment, Blizzard responded, saying, “We plan to address this sometime soon, potentially this afternoon.” We will update this story when Blizzard addresses the lack of access for users with prepaid phone plans.
That’s not the only issue Overwatch 2 faces during its launch week, as players online are also complaining about long queues. Multiple posts on Twitter cite wait queues with upwards of 20,000 people in line ahead of them.
This isn’t uncommon for massive online games during their launch window, as Final Fantasy XIV fans are no doubt familiar with. Blizzard also told IGN there will be a communication later today addressing the server wait times.
Tried to get into Overwatch. Waited for about 30 mins to go from 400 in the queue to zero. When I got to the front, it said ‘Searching for Server’. When it found one, I was 30,000 in the queue.
No Overwatch for me today 🙃
—SkillUp (@SkillUpYT) October 5, 2022
Beyond all this, the big headlines yesterday surrounded the pair of DDoS attacks Overwatch 2 suffered on its launch day. So if you jumped into Overwatch 2 shortly after launch, you likely experienced dropped games or other connection issues as Blizzard worked to fix server issues and stability.
Underneath all of these problems, there is a good game somewhere within Overwatch 2. In our reviewwe called the sequel great, saying “Overwatch 2 breathes new life into what was once the sharpest multiplayer shooter around, before it had its edges severely dulled by Blizzard’s attention shifting away.”
Logan Plant is a freelance writer for IGN covering video game and entertainment news. He has over six years of experience in the gaming industry with bylines at IGN, Nintendo Wire, Switch Player Magazine, and Lifewire. Find him on Twitter @LoganJPlant.