Blizzard announced last week that all Overwatch 2 players will need to link a phone number to their Battle.net account in order to play the game. The requirement was added as part of Blizzard’s efforts to combat toxicity. and in-game abuse. But there’s a major problem: the new 2FA system, called SMS Protect, won’t accept certain types of numbers, “including prepaid and VOIP numbers.” This naturally caused a stir, as it effectively meant that if you have a prepaid cell phone, you can’t play Overwatch.
It is a disconcerting gesture. Requiring a phone number for ranked play is nothing new – Dota 2 (opens in a new tab) implemented such a policy in 2017 and Rainbow Six Siege (opens in a new tab) has the same requirement, but requiring access to the game, and excluding a large number of potential players based solely on their choice of phone plan, is an entirely different level of restriction. The backlash against the policy was strong enough that Blizzard quickly relaxed the phone number requirement. (opens in a new tab) for some Overwatch players.
However, Overwatch 2 is not the only game to apply this rule: it turns out that the next Modern Warfare 2 wants the same thing.
The phone notification page (opens in a new tab) on the Battle.net support site states that Modern Warfare 2, Overwatch 2, and “newly created” Modern Warfare accounts all require a phone number to allow access.
“Adding a phone number will allow Blizzard Entertainment to send you notifications when important changes are made to your account,” the page reads. “Any mobile phone in a supported country with a data plan, and which is not prepaid or a VOIP number, can be used with this service.”
Seems pretty definitive, though it gets a little confusing further down the page, where it says “mobile phones with prepaid plans may not work with phone notification service.” But this directly refers to Battle.net phone notifications and not game access.
Some players are permanently stuck: A Call of Duty fan from Florida told PC Gamer that after installing the Modern Warfare 2 beta in September, they were asked for a “post-paid phone number” in order to call it. to start up. Battle.net refused to accept their prepaid phone number – they’re with Cricket Wireless, which also reportedly failed Overwatch 2 – so they couldn’t play.
“It seems very wrong to force video game players to enter into a contract with a telecommunications company before they are allowed to play the game they have paid for,” they said. “Especially when prepaid phone plans like mine are becoming more and more common. It’s not the gas station special of yesteryear anymore, I have an iPhone and a phone plan that doesn’t work any differently in practice than it does. any other plan: Unlimited talk, text, data, etc. Yet because I’m making a monthly payment, I’m somehow not eligible to play future Activision titles?”
It’s really weird, and Blizzard’s decision to drop the phone requirement for some existing Overwatch accounts doesn’t change the restriction on prepaid phones. That leaves newcomers to Overwatch 2, and somebody who wants to play Modern Warfare 2, out of luck if they have a prepaid plan. I have contacted Activision Blizzard for comment on the phone requirement and will update if I receive a response.