Blizzard announced last week that all Overwatch 2 players will need to link a phone number to their Battle.net accounts in order to play the game. The requirement was added as part of Blizzard’s work to combat toxicity and abuse in the game. But there is one major problem: The new 2FA system, called SMS Protect, will not accept certain types of numbers, “including prepaid and VOIP.” This of course caused a stir, as it effectively meant that if you own a prepaid mobile phone, you can’t play Overwatch.
It’s a confusing move. Requiring a phone number for ranked play is nothing new – Dota 2 (opens in a new tab) implemented such a political path back in 2017 and Rainbow Six Siege (opens in a new tab) has the same requirement—but requiring one to access the game at all, and excluding a large portion 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 with that rule: It turns out that the upcoming 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 states. “Any cell phone in a supported country with a data plan, and that’s not a prepaid or VOIP number, can be used with this service.”
That seems pretty definitive, although the situation is confused a bit further down the page, where it says that “mobile phones with prepaid plans may not work with the phone notification service.” But that is in direct reference to Battle.net phone notifications and not game access.
Some players are definitely stuck: One Call of Duty fan from Florida told PC Gamer that after installing the Modern Warfare 2 beta in September, they were asked for a “postpaid phone number” to start it. Battle.net refused to accept their prepaid phone number—they’re with Cricket Wireless, which also reportedly failed with Overwatch 2—and that’s why they couldn’t play.
“This seems very wrong to require video game players to sign a contract with a telco before being allowed to play the game they paid for,” they said. “Especially when prepaid phone plans like mine are becoming more and more common. No longer the gas station special of last year, I have an iPhone and a phone plan that works no different in practice than any other contract plan: Unlimited talk, text, data, etc. However because I pay monthly I’m somehow not allowed to play future Activision titles?”
It’s definitely weird, and Blizzard’s decision to remove the phone requirement for some existing Overwatch accounts does nothing about the limitation on prepaid phones. That leaves newcomers to Overwatch 2, and anyone who wants to play Modern Warfare 2, luckily if they have a prepaid plan. I’ve reached out to Activision Blizzard for comment on the phone claim, and will update if I hear back.