Fortune reported that Activision Blizzard is removing an anti-cheat precaution from its newest games after players complained it discriminated against poor people.
According to Fortune, just over a week before the launch of Overwatch 2, Activision’s newest shooter, the developer announced that players would need to have a valid phone number to play the game. The system, called SMS Protect, would help the developer keep cheaters and abusive players out of the game. Banned players would be forced to get a new phone number if they wanted to play the game again.
Yet, players found that SMS Protect also excluded anyone on a prepaid phone plan, effectively locking them out of the game. Players with too little income to afford a phone service contract, or who just preferred using prepaid phones, complained that the developer was barring them from enjoying the game.
On Thursday, Blizzard posted “Overwatch 2 Launch Status Update” in its Overwatch Forums. From the post:
We designed Overwatch 2 be a live service, which enables us to be responsive to a variety of player feedback. We have made the decision to remove phone number requirements for a majority of existing Overwatch players. Any Overwatch player with a connected battle.net account, which includes all players who have played since June 9, 2021, will not have to a provide phone number to play. We are working to make this change and expect it to go live Friday October 7. We will update players once it is in effect.
We remain committed to combating disruptive behavior in Overwatch 2 – accounts that were not connected to battle.net as well as new accounts will still have to meet SMS requirements, which helps to ensure we’re protecting our community against cheating. If a player is caught engaging in disruptive behavior, their account may be banned whether they have a new account or not…
Engadget reported that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II, which arrives on October 28, will require players to connect a phone number to their battle.net account to play the game. “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II, newly created Overwatch 2 accounts, and newly created Call of Duty Modern Warfare accounts require a phone number,” says a recently updated support page spotted by PC Gamer.
According to Engadget, the requirement comes following a week of controversy around SMS Protect, the phone-linking system in use by Overwatch 2 and soon Modern Warfare II. Where the studio previously said all players would need to link a phone number to their battle.net account, now that requisite only falls on new Overwatch players. At the moment, it’s unclear if all Warzone 2.0 players will need a mobile phone number to play that game once it arrives on November 16th.
Personally, I understand why Activision Blizzard wants to make an effort to remove players who are cheating, or who are mean to other players, from their games. Failing to remove those players could prevent honest players from returning to the game.
However, I don’t think the solution is to force players to give Activision Blizzard their phone number before they can start playing the newest games. That requirement feels invasive, and could make some players decide to avoid playing the video games that require SMS Protect. It also appears that SMS Protect will exclude players who have pre-paid phone plans, even if those players have never been a problem in other Activision Blizzard games.