Overwatch 2’s free-to-play nature should mean it’s accessible to all players with a compatible device. However, a side effect of a new security measure from Blizzard is leaving some users out in the cold.
Over on Twitter, user Jack Saint brought the community’s attention to Overwatch 2’s SMS Protect policy, which states that all players must connect a phone number to their battle.net account to start Overwatch 2.
Blizzard won’t let people play overwatch 2 if they have… a prepaid phone plan?? pic.twitter.com/NkVOMuFGDJ
— Jack Saint (@lackingsaint) 5 October 2022
Blizzard announced this news last week, but players only started noticing it on a larger scale after the game went live yesterday. According to a press release on Overwatch’s official website, the SMS Protect functionality is a solution to combat “both cheating and disruptive behavior” in Overwatch 2. Part of the release states the following:
“Beginning October 4, 2022, all players across all platforms, including consoles, must have a phone number linked to their battle.net account to launch Overwatch 2. The same phone number cannot be used on multiple accounts at the same time, and players cannot use the same phone number to create multiple accounts. A phone number can only be used once when creating a new account, and certain types of numbers, including prepaid and VOIP, cannot be used for SMS Protect.”
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The part that causes problems is the last sentence where it says prepaid phone plans are not eligible for SMS Protect. Prepaid phone plans from companies like Cricket Wireless require users to pay the bill before receiving service. These plans also rarely require a contract, making them a more attractive option for people who can’t afford or don’t want to spend as much money on a contract phone plan from Verizon or T-Mobile. Unfortunately, these are the people Overwatch 2 currently bans due to the SMS Protect requirement.
For example, in a post on r/Overwatch, one user said that this phone requirement made them feel bad about having a prepaid phone plan, writing in part, “I’m really upset and weirdly ashamed for not fulfilling this ‘standard’ Never thought I would be disqualified from playing overwatch based on my abilities [to] can afford a phone contract but here we are…Blizzard is the first company to make me feel too poor to play a game.”
And it’s not like Overwatch fans with prepaid phone plans can even return to the original game, either, as Blizzard shut down the Overwatch servers to prepare for the sequel’s launch this week. Instead, players starting Overwatch will be prompted to update to Overwatch 2. Blizzard made the decision to shut down Overwatch 1 in order to maintain a unified player base in the new game.
When IGN reached out for comment, Blizzard responded, saying, “We plan to address this sometime soon, potentially this afternoon.” We’ll update this story as Blizzard addresses the lack of access for users with prepaid phone plans.
That’s not the only problem Overwatch 2 is facing during its launch week, as players online are also complaining about long queues. Several posts on Twitter cite queues with up to 20,000 people queuing in front of them.
This is not uncommon for massive online games during their launch window, as Final Fantasy XIV fans are no doubt familiar with. Blizzard also told IGN that there will be a communication about server wait times later today.
Tried to get into Overwatch. Waited for about 30 minutes to go from 400 in line to zero. When I got to the front it said ‘Searching for Server’. When it found one, I was 30,000 in line.
No Overwatch for me today 🙃
— Skill Up (@SkillUpYT) 5 October 2022
On top of all this, the big headlines yesterday surrounded the pair of DDoS attacks that Overwatch 2 suffered on launch day. So if you jumped into Overwatch 2 shortly after launch, you likely experienced dropped games or other connection issues as Blizzard worked to address server issues and stability.
Underneath all these problems, there’s a good game somewhere in Overwatch 2. In our review, we called the sequel fantastic, saying “Overwatch 2 breathes new life into what was once the sharpest multiplayer shooter around before it got its edges severely blunted. by Blizzard’s attention shifting.”
Logan Plant is a freelance writer for IGN covering video game and entertainment news. He has over six years of experience in the gaming industry with bylines at IGN, Nintendo Wire, Switch Player Magazine and Lifewire. Find him on Twitter @LoganJPlant.