Pour one out for your homies because the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 reboot—and new accounts for 2019's Modern Warfare—currently requires a registered phone number to Battle.net, publisher Activision announced. This requirement follows a similar move made by publisher sister series Overwatch 2, which Blizzard has since (mostly) recanted following some immense public backlash.
Last week, Blizzard confirmed that a majority of Overwatch 2 players would need to register a phone number to their accounts in order to play the buggy-as-hell hero shooter. It was a controversial requirement, something folks—especially those with prepaid, landline, or VOIP phones—likened to “being punished for being poor.” You can imagine the criticism the company got, considering how many people in the U.S. use prepaid phones. (According to a 2020 estimate, there were 74 million prepaid phone users.) Following player blowback on the move, Blizzard has since updated its policy, stating that “accounts that were not connected to Battle.net as well as new accounts” would still need to meet the SMS Protect requirements to access Overwatch 2. While this may be some semblance of a good decision, it seems that not everyone at Activision Blizzard got the memo on why this blew up. Modern Warfare 2 will make everyone, new player or not, connect a phone number to Battle.net to play the shooter.
In an updated blog post on Blizzard’s website, the company confirmed that Modern Warfare 2 and “newly created Call of Duty: Modern Warfare accounts” would require a phone number. The reason for this, Blizzard said, is so that the company can bang your line with “notifications when important changes are made to your account.” Think stuff like recovering your account name or resetting your password. Typical security procedures. That’s great in theory, at least in that the company wants to fight a real problem, even if the solution really shouldn’t require a phone number at all. But on top of that, prepaid and VOIP phones won’t work. Sigh.
This news comes not long after Activision dropped a video marketing Modern Warfare 2. The video, a short compilation of zero gameplay set to a remixed military marching theme, shows a bunch of celebrities and rappers—from Lil Baby to Pete Davidson to Nicki Minaj—“squading up” with the gang. These folks are millionaires, however, and probably have no issue buddying up with their Modern Warfare 2 friends since they can afford nice phones and lavish lifestyles. The same can’t always be said of the working class who, with the game’s seemingly exclusionary phone number requirement, makes squading up an impossibility. At least Overwatch 2 is “free.” The video comes across as tone-deaf, and the unbalanced like-to-dislike ratio is emblematic of that fact.
The blog post only mentioned 2019's Modern Warfare, the upcoming Modern Warfare 2, and the just-released (but currently on fire) Overwatch 2. While Warzone, and the imminent Warzone 2.0, aren’t brought up, you do need a Battle.net account to play either of Activision’s battle royale shooters. Still, though, it’s unclear if the phone number requirement extends that far, or stops with just the Modern Warfare games.
Kotaku has reached out to Activision for comment.
There’s still time for Activision to reverse course on this controversial decision, so we’ll see what happens when Modern Warfare 2 lands on October 28 for all the major consoles (except the Nintendo Switch). While the beta has officially come to a close, if you preorder the game before launch day, you’ll gain early access to the main campaign one week before Modern Warfare 2 comes out.
UPDATE 1:00 p.m. ET, October 14: In a blog post outlining security efforts expected for the new versions of CoD, Team Ricochet, the game’s security squad, indicated that PC gamers who previously verified their accounts on Battle.net for the first Warzone won’t be “required to provide any additional information to access Modern Warfare II and Warzone 2.0.” New PC players, and those on Steam, however, will still have to comply with the SMS prerequisite before being allowed into either game. Console versions of these games will be exempt from a phone number requirement.