Correction 11/22/2022, 4:50 p.m. ET: Our original story misstated the requirements for Blizzard’s SMS Protect service. On October 5, the company removed the requirement (which mandated a phone number be attached to your Battle.net account) only for existing Overwatch players who had Battle.net accounts. This change came shortly after Blizzard announced the SMS Protect program on September 27. New Overwatch 2 players who did not already have Battle.net accounts were (and still are) required to sign up with a phone number—and until November 17, that number could not be attached to a prepaid phone. The update provided by Blizzard on November 17 confirmed that the company was “expanding SMS Protect access to prepaid phones.” Kotaku regrets the error.
The corrected story follows.
Blizzard has announced in an updated blog post that its SMS Protect program has been expanded to include prepaid phone numbers. This update comes over a month after the SMS Protect service was first launched, and after some confusion around how it would be rolled out. If you are a first-time Overwatch player and do not already have a Battle.net account, you’ll need a phone number to set it up—but at least now that phone number can be from a prepaid phone.
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. New players, however, still did. Which brings us to today’s announcement.
“Beginning today, we are expanding global SMS Protect access to prepaid 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.
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. Points touched on include 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 Neuss said those updates may not roll out immediately.
“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.