Overwatch 2 Phone Number Requirements Feel Classist

Originally published at: Overwatch 2 Phone Number Requirements Feel Classist - XboxEra

Overwatch 2 just released with a less than stellar launch due to a massive influx of players itching to try it out as well as a DDoS attack, as reported by members of the Blizzard development team. Unfortunately, that’s not the only reason players are lamenting the side-step sequel. 

Back in June, Blizzard revealed that Overwatch 2 would battle smurf accounts, cheaters, and bots by requiring a valid phone number capable of receiving SMS text messages. This is fairly standard fare for most modern Free-To-Play titles, including other games from Activision-Blizzard like Call of Duty: Warzone. Arguably, it is the best way to combat cheaters and other problematic players, but that simplicity comes at a cost.

According to the Battle.Net Phone Notification Support page, players are not able to use certain prepaid phone plans, as well as VOIP services. While Blizzard does offer the information that not all prepaid phone numbers may be accepted, they do not provide any list of compatible services to players, only vaguely alluding to what may or may not work. 

This requirement is a bit of a tightrope. According to a 2020 analysis by Lowenstein, as of Q3 2020, approximately 74 million Americans alone use prepaid phone service with nearly 80% of those belonging to Tracfone (Verizon), MetroPCS (T-Mobile), and Cricket Wireless (AT&T), the latter of which accounts for more than 20 million users alone. 

There are some that have been able to make their prepaid service work. Anecdotally, it appears that is affecting a disproportionate amount of Americans specifically, and it doesn’t take a lot of sleuthing to find the answers there. In America, most prepaid services require virtually no forms of government issued ID or proof of residency like most postpaid services do. There are a fair amount of countries, like those in Europe and South America, that require legal ID regardless of the type of plans you’re paying for. Reddit user u/Amuurii reported that their prepaid number worked, but that they’re located in Germany:

This has led some Blizzard fans to seek out ways to circumvent the strict requirements. Some are recommending their fellow users try using alternate services that seem to have slipped past Blizzard’s firewalls. Services like Talkatone is a VOIP service, but Blizzard user Zek says that they’ve been able to make them work:

Unfortunately, several forum posts look more like Blizzard user Zen’s. Zen complained that he and his two children all played Overwatch together, but because his younger kids don’t own mobile phones, they’re no longer able to play: 

This even has some players, like Reddit user u/RLmclovin, feeling ashamed of their phone plans due to the financial situations many people who do use prepaid phone service find themselves in:

This requirement for their players is leaving Blizzard looking like the bad guy, regardless of how they might try to spin this. I understand and even appreciate that a studio might find this to be a simple and elegant solution to combat the plights of their dedicated players, but disallowing players who are incapable of affording a more expensive phone plan is plain classist at best. It’s not the phone service requirement, it’s the specificity of the requirement that is leaving players confused and upset. 

I call this decision classist because of comments by people like u/RLmclovin. I am not unique in my own share of periods of life when the only thing I could afford to use for a mobile phone was an affordable option that didn’t require that I pay upwards of $90 a month for service, and instead only asked that I pay $35 when I could for 30 days worth of service. This also comes down to those of lower socioeconomic status who may never be able to afford to pay for something other than what they have currently. 

Phone service isn’t cheap, and classing players out of your game isn’t a great way to encourage people to tell their friends to download it and play. The social pressure being put on teenagers whose parents can’t afford to get them a phone at all are now being left out because of these requirements. I would be embarrassed, needlessly, if I tried to download Overwatch 2 to play with my friends, only to have to sit out because Blizzard’s service refuses to recognize my phone number as legitimate. 

Even people who are just happy with their service, who have had it for over 15 years, shouldn’t be told to find a different provider just because they want to play the cool new hotness that’s available right now. Blizzard user sleepingirl suggests alternate solutions to verifying an account that would help to mitigate this problem: 

While her suggestions still lead to some problematic requirements, I see no reason that Blizzard, one of the largest self-publishing companies in gaming today, can’t find a way to allow all of their players to find a way around this, in my opinion, classist requirement. 

This is made even worse by the fact that Overwatch 2 has taken the place of a game that cost $40 to purchase up until October 4th, as it has replaced its predecessor, rather than launching as a fully separate product. Fans of 2016’s Overwatch who don’t fit the predetermined metric seemingly arbitrarily decided upon by the overlords at Blizzard have now lost a game. They’re now left without something to play instead of something to be excited about. 

As of the publishing of this article, IGN has received a response from Blizzard on the matter when asked for a comment stating: “We plan to address this sometime soon, potentially this afternoon.”

Surely, they’re aware of the outrage their fans are exhibiting. My hope is that, even if it’s only an incredibly small percent of the 74 million prepaid service users that are looking to play Overwatch 2, that they still find value in providing a game to those players. I like to think that Blizzard has moved on from the days of “Do you guys not have phones?”


I can see why. It makes it harder for cheaters to make new accounts. People can hide the ip address by using VPN. Can make as many email addresses as needed to make new accounts. But due to the outrage I bet they will get rid of the phone requirements. But do understand some people do not have phone numbers and use pay to go phones. may be a bad idea but was not done out of bad faith to anyone. Just trying to find ways to make it harder for cheater then to bloat the game program.

I would disagree with the premise here being that if the result of some decision leads to segmentation of users based on phone number access it is ‘classist’. To me, something being _ist requires the discrimination to be deliberate. In this case, is there any info suggesting that the segmentation was deliberately done out of prejudice related to phone access? I seriously doubt that.

It is nevertheless a super dumb decision that makes no sense at all to me. I’ll add that I get the angle of ‘cheat prevention’ but there really needs to be more thought put into those efforts as this kinda soln is just dumb on its face.


They back backtracked already. Only new accounts have to enter a phone number.

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Only partially backtracked. It’s still completely horrible for new players. It’s unacceptable.


It’s a mess for sure. I managed to play a bit. I don’t have my old skins unlocked yet.

At least they are reacting to what’s happening. They temporarily deactivated the shop too.

Edit : so actually I can’t acess the shop because my old account still hasn’t been recovered and merged lol.

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I agree that their intent here wasn’t malicious, but something can have inherent biases based on socioeconomic precedent, which in turn, makes it problematic. I think this is a conversation that could bubble up into being too intense for our forums, but just because something has specific intent behind it or not doesn’t mean it is or isn’t a problem. feigning ignorance or weaponizing it is something that is 100% different than genuinely being ignorant. Mistakes are made, don’t get me wrong, but again, this is the same company that said “Do you guys not have phones?” which implies a lack of empathy. You’d think by the time we got from there to here, they would have figured that out.

(gave a like to your post for the second half of it that’s not in this quote lol we can all agree this was dumb from the get go an a massive corporation should be able to figure out a better way to prevent issues like the ones they’re trying to prevent.)


Why Xbox is the villain for buying them again? They can course correct this if they acquire them.

While it sucks for some people, considering the amount of people hacking and creating burner accounts I think it’s a good way to do it. I even saw people hacking during the MW2 beta, that’s how bad it is, and while not as common in overwatch it does happen.

They are trying to protect people enjoying the game that are playing legit and I think it’s fair play from them and I’m quite happy they are taking this stance. The whole payvas you go phone thing isn’t as common here in Canada so it doesn’t bother me at all, but maybe they’ll find a way to accomodate as many people as possible. I just don’t think they need to get rid of the system as something needs to be done to protect us from hackers once they’re banned.

The issue is that it doesn’t work as intended. Talkatone is a VOIP service that is working, and creating a number through their service (for free) is cheaper than buying a $40 copy of Overwatch 1, which now means that it’s cheaper than ever for jackasses to get into the game with smurf accounts, hacks, etc.

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If it excludes prepaid I simply won’t be able to play, they expect people to sign up to a phone contract just to play their game?

They can piss off with that shit

What is so different about prepaid phone numbers in the US? No one I know here has had any issues.

You can buy what a lot of people refer to as “burner phones” at department stores. They essentially come with a pre-determined number of minutes/messages. People were using them to create new accounts to cheat/waste newbs.

There is a different subset of prepaid phone that you can get from larger carriers like verizon where you just paid for your service ahead of time instead of post paid(or at least you used to be able to)

Ah so it’s tied to the, I assume, cheap phone rather than you as a person? Do you buy a new phone when the minutes run out then? Sounds very weird.

Here you can either pay in advance, like load the card up with whatever you want whenever or get a classic bill every month based on what you’ve used.

Correct. You take it out of the package and it just has a number associated with it and a limited number of minutes. It will be a crappy phone in a bubble case. They would typically sell cards if you wanted to add more minutes to it. But the user never associates their identity to any of it.

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Ah I see, thanks for the explanation.

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Doesn’t require a Verified ID to buy prepaid in the US but does in Europe. At least thats what the articles about this mentioned.

Phone contracts still exist?

Agreed entirely with most of this, yeah. I only took issue with the label being _ist in the sense I noted. And even then, yours was provocative enough a spin on things to get me to read a thread about a game I care 0% about and engage, so there’s that. I would only say you can have actions with unintended consequences. I don’t think it is reasonable to say this decision was classist on that basis. It was a super dumb decision anyhow though, on terms unrelated to classism.