Blizzard has pulled back from its requirement that players add their mobile phone number to their Battle.net account in order to play Overwatch 2.
It was previously mandatory for players to enroll in the “SMS Protect” system to access the game. Players who declined would be unable to login to the games servers.
Blizzard argued that SMS Protect was necessary as the game transitioned to a live service free-to-play model, in order to combat “disruptive behaviour” and stop banned users simply creating a new account.
However, the community didnt take kindly to this requirement, which could be viewed as exclusionary particularly for those without a mobile phone.
Additionally, some US-based players reported they were unable to enroll with prepaid (Pay as You Go) phone numbers. The logic behind this decision makes sense, given disruptive players could potentially purchase a cheap SIM card with a new number to bypass bans. But it also had the unintended consequence of disproportionately excluding players on the lower-income scale or with a poor credit score, who may have been unable to take out a monthly contract.
Acknowledging these issues, Blizzard has amended this policy so existing players with a connected Battle.net account who had played Overwatch anytime since 9th June 2021 will no longer be required to add a phone number to play Overwatch 2. Blizzard claims this should cover the vast majority of legacy players.
The U-turn helps ease the burden of veteran players while also maintaining a level of verification to minimise disruptive gameplay. However, this does still exclude potentially millions of new players. Blizzard has stated it will make further adjustments if required.
There are of course other methods to verify the legitimacy of players. Blizzards sister company Activision uses hardware ID bans to combat cheating in Call of Duty: Warzone with varying levels of success.