Just over a week before the launch of Overwatch 2, the newest shooter from Activision, the developer announced that the player will need a valid phone number to play the game. The system, called SMS Protect, will help developers keep cheaters and abusers out of the game. Banned players will be required to have a new phone number if they want to play the game again.
However, players noticed that SMS Protect also exclude anyone on a prepaid phone plan, effectively locking them out of the game. Players who have too little income to afford a phone service contract or just prefer to use prepaid phones, complain that the developer is barring them from enjoying their games.
“I never thought I would be disqualified from playing Overwatch based on my ability [to] afford to buy a phone contract”, a user Written on the Overwatch subreddit. The player explained that he used Cricket Wireless and wrote that “Blizzard was the first company that made me feel too bad to play a game.”
Other players worry that blocking those with prepaid phone plans will harm the game’s community by reducing the potential player base. “Today made me realize how popular Cricket Wireless is with Overwatch retools,” commented another user on the Overwatch subreddit.
To make matters worse, Activision shut down the first Overwatch game on Monday in an effort to make sure people move on to the sequel. Players on prepaid phone plans are now stuck with a game that is currently unplayable.
On Thursday, Activision stepped back, speech it will remove the requirement for most players in a blog post. While SMS Protect isn’t going away completely, Activision says that anyone who’s been playing since last June will be exempt.
SMS Protect is merely one of the frustrations players have with Overwatch 2.
Hackers hit Overwatch 2’s servers with a distributed-denial-service attack when the game launches, forcing players to wait in long lines to find a match. Even as the attacks subsided, players reported long wait times as Activision’s servers struggled to keep up with demand.
The player has also complained about the game’s monetization features. Overwatch 2, unlike its predecessor, requires no upfront purchase to play the game. Instead, players spend money on cosmetic upgrades, like new characters or new outfits for their characters. Players get frustrated because overall these purchases can cost more money in the long run.
Overwatch 2’s monetization features are really an attempt to steer clear of another dubious monetization method. The first Overwatch game with a “loot box,” unlocked through the game or purchased directly, contained a variety of random upgrades. Regulators are increasingly see loot boxes as a practice similar to gambling.
On Thursday, Activision Blizzard told players in a blog post that “while millions have been enjoying [Overwatch 2]the launch hasn’t lived up to your or our expectations,” and promises more fixes to address player concerns.
Activision Blizzard, one of the world’s largest video game companies, is in the process of applying for regulatory approval to acquire Microsoft, was announced earlier this year. Xbox manufacturer in January said it will pay $68.7 billion for Activision, which also owns brands like Call of Duty, Candy Crush Saga and World of Warcraft.
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