Overwatch 2 players will need to cough up their phone numbers to play the hero shooter, as Blizzard rolls out a new SMS security system.
When the shooter launches next month, Overwatch 2 will require all players on all platforms to link an active phone number to their Battle.net account. In a blog post, Blizzard says the new SMS authentication system will form part of a wider initiative to clamp down on disruptive behavior.
“The security of your account is important, and SMS Protect helps verify ownership of your account in the unforeseen event of an account compromise,” said Blizzard. “Similarly, if a disruptive player has been suspended or banned, SMS Protect makes it more difficult for them to return to the game.”
Every player will need access to a mobile phone to play Overwatch 2, even those who bought an original boxed version of Overwatch. Blizzard says SMS verification is “an industry-proven solution in combating both cheating and disruptive behavior” and hopes it will improve the game’s overall experience.
There are a few limitations though. A phone number cannot be linked to multiple accounts at once or used to create several different profiles. Certain types of numbers, including those tied to pre-paid SIM cards and VOIP phones, also don’t qualify. That should prevent disruptive players from cycling through lots of burner phones to create new accounts for the free-to-play game.
As well as better preventing abusive and disruptive players from returning, it will also combat smurfing – whereby an experienced player creates a fresh account so they can deliberately play against lower-tier players. It’s thought the cost of buying a new SIM card will deter players from deliberately picking on newbies.
SMS verification isn’t just limited to Overwatch. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 on PC also asks you to hand over a phone number to access its multiplayer, and some features of World of Warcraft are locked off to those who haven’t tied a number to their account. In an FAQ, Blizzard says that limiting the number of free accounts a person can create makes players “accountable for their actions”, which “reduces toxicity and cheating and ensures a positive community experience for all players”.
Some players are already upset at the change. A Blizzard forum post has racked up a lot of attention, with players complaining about the need to divulge their personal information. Others have suggested they won’t be able to play the game because they use a prepaid phone. With Overwatch 2 rated suitable for teens in the US and PEGI 12 in Europe, it’s possible some would-be players might not have access to a phone with which to authenticate their account.
At least the majority of players can look forward to the game’s new season pass system, even if it does lock new heroes behind a progression system.