“SMS Protect never dies,” Blizzard, definitely.
If you were happy that Blizzard mostly scrapped the SMS Protect requirement, a method to curb the creation of free Overwatch 2 accounts from potential bad actors, I’m sorry to disappoint you but it’s back. Yes, the publisher announced in an updated blog post that SMS Protect has been re-enabled, meaning whether you’ve got a prepaid mobile phone or not, you’ll soon need to connect a phone number to your Battle.net account in order to play Overwatch 2.
Overwatch 2 has been somewhat of a mess since it came out on October 4. Maps were removed. Servers were flooded at launch, making the game largely unplayable. A third of the roster was locked and certain heroes, like Bastion and Mei, were pulled so that Blizzard could iron out issues with their kits.
Overwatch 2 has been going through it, and the SMS Protect number requirement was another thorn in gamers’ sides. Some told Kotaku it felt like “being punished for being poor” because SMS Protect didn’t allow for prepaid numbers, effectively barring low-income folks from ever playing the free-to-play hero shooter. Following the swift backlash to this controversial requirement, Blizzard reversed the decision, saying that people with a connected Battle.net account “will not have to provide a phone number to play” Overwatch 2.
Well, Blizzard has changed its mind again. In a blog post updated on November 17, the publisher said that SMS Protect for Overwatch 2 is making a comeback.
“Beginning today, we are expanding global SMS Protect access to pre-paid phones,” Blizzard wrote in the update to the blog post. “We are excited to welcome more players to Overwatch 2 while continuing our commitment to combating disruptive behavior and protecting the integrity of the player experience. This update may take several hours to roll out completely, and we can’t wait to see you in-game!”
Kotaku reached out to Blizzard for comment.
While Blizzard said in its November 17 updated blog post that SMS Protect would make an appearance in “several hours,” I was just required to add a phone number to a newly created Battle.net account. So, I guess the requirement has gone live sooner than the company anticipated. Great.
At the same time Blizzard announced SMS Protect is back, Overwatch 2's new executive producer Jared Neuss posted a separate blog about updates to the game. This includes tweaking the progression system so you “feel good about the time you just spent in the game,” improving queue times so they’re “more accurate in the UI,” adjusting matchmaking to better “determine a player’s skill tier and division,” and making balance changes to heroes that are “good for the current state of the game.”
There are also experiments in the works to the battle pass so rewards feel more rewarding and less grindy, but these updates “may take more time to lock-in,” Neuss said.
“A quick note: Sharing plans before they’re finalized is risky,” Neuss wrote in the blog post. “Development on a live game like Overwatch 2 requires constant juggling of urgent player needs, long-term ambitions, and live issues. It’s easier, and safer, to talk about the work once it’s nearly done and ready to deliver. That said, I think sharing our thoughts early is the right thing to do, so we can create a better dialogue between the development team and the community. Please keep your feedback coming: we read it, we’re inspired by it, we use it in our development plans. Ultimately, we need it to ensure that we’re building a game that you want to keep playing for years to come.”
Blizzard, which is notorious for its toxic workplace culture, has announced Overwatch 2's second season will kick off on December 6. This batch of content will include a new map, another battle pass, and the tank hero Ramattra, who is unlockable after you hit level 55 on the battle pass. Bummer.
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