Blizzard scales back Overwatch 2’s controversial phone number requirement

Source: ARS Technica


Blizzard has partially walked back a controversial policy that required Overwatch 2 players to confirm a valid mobile phone number to play the game. Now, players “with a connected Battle.net account”—a group Blizzard says includes “a majority of existing Overwatch players”— will be able to avoid that requirement.

Blizzard originally announced late last month that all Overwatch 2 players would be required to sign up for its “SMS Protect” service with a valid phone number. The move was sold as a way to bring “meaningful change when it comes to disruptive play” in the game.

In free-to-play games like Overwatch 2, problematic players can easily create new accounts in an attempt to evade bans. By linking all Overwatch 2 player accounts to a distinct phone number, Blizzard said it was “mak[ing] it more difficult for [disruptive players] to return to the game.”

“The key idea behind SMS Protect is to have an investment on behalf of the owner of that account and add some limitations or restrictions behind how you might have an account,” Overwatch 2 Lead Software Engineer Bill Warnecke told Forbes. “There’s no exclusions or kind of loopholes around the system.”


Blizzard’s Overwatch Case


In Blizzard’s case, the SMS Protect policy elicited immediate pushback from many players who faced a number of problems getting their phone numbers linked to their Overwatch 2 accounts. That includes players who reportedly faced issues because they use prepaid phone plans—Blizzard wrote that “certain types of numbers, including prepaid and VOIP, cannot be used for SMS Protect” (presumably in an attempt to prevent the use of “burner phone” numbers for ban evasion).

Late Wednesday evening, Blizzard issued a “Launch Status Update” intended to address some of those complaints. Now, “any Overwatch player with a connected Battle.net account… will not have to provide a phone number to play.” That includes anyone who played the original Overwatch on a PC—where a Battle.net account has always been required—and all console players who have played since June 9, 2021—when Blizzard added a linked Battle.net account requirement to help enable cross-play features between platforms. Blizzard said the new policy is expected to go into effect Friday and that it should affect “a majority of existing Overwatch players,” who will no longer need an SMS Protect phone number on their account.


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