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Blizzard axes Overwatch 2 phone number requirement in update on game’s rocky launch

Players with a connected Battle.net account should be able to bypass SMS Protect

Winston, Genji, Mercy, and Brigitte stand side by side in their default costumes in a still from Overwatch 2 Image: Blizzard Entertainment

Blizzard’s launch of Overwatch 2 on Tuesday did not go as planned. Many players who attempted to play the revamped Overwatch experienced long queue times, were subjected to server errors, were disconnected from games, and had progress and items not carry over from the original game — that is, if they could connect to Blizzard’s game servers at all. On Wednesday evening, Blizzard apologized for the state of Overwatch 2’s launch and announced a major policy change: It will no longer require a phone number to be attached to a Battle.net account for “a majority of existing Overwatch players.”

“We have made the decision to remove phone number requirements for a majority of existing Overwatch players,” the Overwatch team said in a post on Blizzard’s forums. “Any Overwatch player with a connected Battle.net account, which includes all players who have played since June 9, 2021, will not have to provide a phone number to play.”

Blizzard said it plans to change the phone number requirement for Overwatch 2 for existing players by Friday.

Despite lifting the phone number requirement for much of its player base, an initiative it called SMS Protect, the developer “remain[s] committed to combating disruptive behavior in Overwatch 2” and noted that “accounts that were not connected to Battle.net as well as new accounts will still have to meet SMS Protect 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.”

Blizzard’s decision to require a phone number for Overwatch 2 — and further restrictions about which types of phone numbers would meet its requirements — was a controversial one. Some players who had prepaid cell phone plans found themselves locked out from playing Overwatch 2, meaning some customers who purchased the original Overwatch, which was replaced by its sequel wholesale, could no longer play their copy of the game. That issue was exacerbated by the timing of Blizzard’s announcement of the policy: one week before Overwatch 2 launched, and well after the developer started taking pre-orders for add-ons for the game.

As for the status of Overwatch 2’s online play, Blizzard said it’s still working to improve stability for the game’s online service.

“Today we’ve patched a server that is critical to the login experience, and this change has increased login reliability,” the Overwatch team said. “Beyond queues, we’re in progress with another server update that will reduce the occurrences of players being disconnected once they’re already in game.”

Blizzard said it has “made changes to simplify the queuing process,” and expects players to see more streamlined queue times, and is working to address players being dropped from queues.

In Wednesday evening’s update, Blizzard also addressed problems with account merging and missing player items, and incorrectly locked heroes, all of which it said is being investigated and worked on. Blizzard again noted that Overwatch 2’s launch issues “were exacerbated by DDoS attacks,” which have apparently abated since Tuesday.

Blizzard said updates will be posted on the official Overwatch Twitter account (and presumably its forums) as they come in.

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