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Overwatch 2 will require a phone number to play — even if you’ve played the original

Blizzard’s security layer is meant to curb cheaters and toxic players

Overwatch 2 hero Sojourn wearing a futuristic space suit and pointing a gun at the camera Image: Blizzard Entertainment
Nicole Carpenter is a senior reporter specializing in investigative features about labor issues in the game industry, as well as the business and culture of games.

When Overwatch 2 replaces the original Overwatch on Oct. 4, players will be required to link a phone number to their accounts. If you don’t, you won’t be able to play Overwatch 2 — even if you’ve already purchased Overwatch. The same two-factor step, called SMS Protect, will also be used on all Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 accounts when that game launches, and new Call of Duty: Modern Warfare accounts.

Blizzard Entertainment announced SMS Protect and other safety measures ahead of Overwatch 2’s release. Blizzard said it implemented these controls because it wanted to “protect the integrity of gameplay and promote positive behavior in Overwatch 2.”

Overwatch 2 is free to play, unlike its predecessor. Without SMS Protect, Blizzard reasoned that there is no barrier to toxic players or trolls creating a new account if an existing one is sanctioned. SMS Protect, therefore, ties that account to something valuable — in this case a player’s mobile phone.

Why does Blizzard require my phone number?

SMS Protect is a security feature that has two purposes: to keep players accountable for what Blizzard calls “disruptive behavior,” and to protect accounts if they’re hacked. It requires all Overwatch 2 players to attach a unique phone number to their account. Blizzard said SMS Protect will target cheaters and harassers; if an account is banned, it’ll be harder for them to return to Overwatch 2. You can’t just enter any old phone number — you actually have to have access to a phone receiving texts to that number to get into your account.

Overwatch 2 lead software engineer Bill Warnecke told Forbes that, even if accounts are no longer tied to Overwatch’s box price — because the game is now free-to-play — Blizzard still wants players to make an “investment” in upholding a safe game.

“The key idea behind SMS Protect is to have an investment on behalf of the owner of that account and add some limitations or restrictions behind how you might have an account,” Warnecke said. “There’s no exclusions or kind of loopholes around the system.”

What kind of phone number can I use?

Blizzard said its notifications, as part of SMS Protect, are only for “text enabled mobile phones.” That means that messaging apps like WhatsApp or Apple’s iMessage can’t be used. Likewise, (some) prepaid phones won’t work, and neither will VoIP numbers (which use IP networks to make calls or send texts). Likewise, a landline phone number won’t work either.

A phone number can only be used once; players can’t have multiple accounts tied to a single number.

Can I get a refund if I can’t add my phone number?

Blizzard support has reportedly refunded the $39.99 one player spent on the Overwatch 2 Watchpoint Pack, after that player contacted Blizzard customer support and pointed out they did not have a mobile phone that met SMS Protect’s requirements. But that’s only one case. We’ve reached out to Blizzard for more information on its refund policy regarding Overwatch, Overwatch 2 and SMS Protect’s compatibility.

Where do I add my phone number?

On the account page, you’ll need to head to the Account Details tab on the sidebar, right under Account Overview. The third box down is where you input your number. You can do so by clicking Add Phone Number. Blizzard will send a verification number to the phone attached to your number. Enter it in the box and you should be good to go.

If you change your phone number, you’ll be able to adjust it here later, too.

Can I still have multiple accounts?

Sure — if they’re linked to individual phone numbers that connect to an active mobile phone.

Does this actually improve security?

Blizzard said these phone notifications will be used to approve password resets — meaning someone else won’t be able to change your password without the notification code it’ll send to your mobile phone. Blizzard said it will also send you a text message if your account is locked out after a “a suspicious login attempt,” or if your password or security features are changed.

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