Blizzard Reduces Overwatch 2’s Controversial Phone Number Requirement

Overwatch 2 offer varied reactions depending on whether or not they are now exempt from Blizzard "SMS Protection" system.”/>

Enlarge / Monitor 2 characters offer varying reactions depending on whether or not they are now exempt from Blizzard’s “SMS Protect” system.

Blizzard partially reversed a controversial policy that required Monitor 2 players to confirm a valid mobile phone number to play the game. Now players “with a logged in account” – a group according to Blizzard includes “a majority of existing users Surveillance players” – will be able to avoid this requirement.

Blizzard originally announced at the end of last month that all Monitor 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 disruptive gaming change” to the game.

In free games like Monitor 2, problem players can easily create new accounts in an attempt to evade the bans. By linking everything Monitor 2 player accounts to a separate phone number, Blizzard said it was “mak[ing] it is more difficult for [disruptive players] to get back to the game.”

“The key idea behind SMS Protect is to have an investment in the name of the owner of that account and to add limitations or restrictions to how you could have an account,” Monitor 2 Principal Software Engineer Bill Warnecke says Forbes. “There are no exclusions or loopholes around the system.”

This type of politics is not unheard of in the video game industry. In 2019, Bungie deployed a similar SMS validation requirement to play for free Destiny 2 players on PC to access high-level raids and in-game events. This attempt to limit cheating and prohibit evasion did not entirely succeedNevertheless.

Push ’em back, push ’em back, waaaaaay back

In the case of Blizzard, the SMS Protect policy was met with immediate rejection from many players facing a Number of problems get their phone numbers linked to their Monitor 2 accounts. This includes players who would have faces problems because they use prepaid phone plans – Blizzard wrote that “certain types of numbers, including prepaid and VOIP numbers, cannot be used for SMS Protect” (presumably in an effort to prevent the use of numbers phone “engravers” to circumvent the ban).

Accounts that were not logged into, as well as new accounts, will still need to meet SMS Protect requirements, which helps ensure that we protect our community from cheating.

Snow storm

Late Wednesday night, Blizzard released a “Launch Status Update” intended to address some of these complaints. Now “everything Surveillance player with a logged in account…will not have to provide a phone number to play.” This includes anyone who played the original Surveillance on PC – where a account has always been required – and all console players who have played since June 9, 2021 – when Blizzard added linked account requirement to help enable crossplay features between platforms. Blizzard said the new policy is expected to go into effect on Friday and should affect “the majority of Surveillance players”, who will no longer need an SMS Protect phone number on their account.

That said, Blizzard isn’t abandoning its phone number linking system entirely. “Accounts that were not logged into, as well as new accounts, will still need to meet SMS Protect requirements, which helps ensure that we protect our community from cheating,” the company wrote. “If a player is caught engaging in disruptive behavior, their account may be banned whether they have a new account or not.”

It is not immediately clear if there is a specific threshold for when there is Surveillance players can log into a account to avoid the SMS Protect requirement or if this time limit has already expired. It is also unclear whether new players who register today (i.e. before the new policy takes effect tomorrow) will be exempt from the requirement. A Blizzard representative was not immediately available to respond to a request for comment from Ars Technica on this matter.

Either way, Blizzard’s partial pushback suggests that the company is at least somewhat receptive to widespread player complaints and bad press surrounding the SMS Protect requirement. It also suggests that Blizzard trusts players who invested time in the original. Surveillance are less likely to jeopardize their long-standing accounts with ban-worthy activity.

Throw another server on the stack

Elsewhere in her Wednesday Monitor 2 update, Blizzard has apologized for the server issues and DDoS attacks that have leads to entry queues for launch day players. The company explained that “the player database is overloaded causing the login system to cascade and back up, ultimately leading to some people being removed from queues or not being able to login. at all”.

The new server nodes should alleviate this pressure on servers, Blizzard said, although these nodes should be added slowly to avoid putting too much strain on “an already stressed system” and to avoid “any further disruption as developers and engineers are working on separate problems”. Blizzard also said it’s working on a server update that “will reduce the number of players getting disconnected once they’re already in-game.”

“We have fixed some issues and are in the process of fixing others, but players should still expect to see queues,” Blizzard wrote.

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