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Blizzard will remove its controversial SMS Protect system from Overwatch 2, but only for OW1 players

Changes are due to go into effect on Friday, October 7.

In a bid to keep player accounts protected and curb in-game toxicity, Blizzard added an SMS Protect system to Overwatch 2 for players. This system required all players, across all platforms, to have a phone number associated with their accounts.

Except, this isn’t just about protecting players; the SMS Protect system also aids Blizzard with controlling exactly who can access Overwatch 2. Blizzard has since announced it will be removing the SMS protect system for Overwatch 2 players that previously played Overwatch 1 since June, 9, 2021. If you’re not exactly sure what the deal with SMS Protect is, we’ve explained it here.

In a previous blog post detailing its Defense Matrix initiative, which is aimed at disincentivising disruptive behaviour and gameplay, Blizzard said, “SMS Protect brings meaningful change when it comes to disruptive play. This additional layer of security is an industry-proven solution in combating both cheating and disruptive behaviour, further protecting your Overwatch 2 experience from bad actors.”

Blizzard continues, “SMS Protect helps verify ownership of your account in the unforeseen event of an account compromise. Similarly, if a disruptive player has been suspended or banned, SMS Protect makes it more difficult for them to return to the game. “

This might seem like a good thing at face value, but really, it’s hindering many players from taking part in Overwatch 2 for reasons unrelated to their behaviour. The SMS Protect system does not take into account households that are possibly sharing the same phone number, nor does it accept pre-paid or VOIP numbers.

As a result, multiple players are unable to access the game, and this especially impacts younger players, or those who cannot afford to have phones paid off or on contracts, and so forth.

In a change of events, Blizzard announced via its Launch Status Update page that the SMS Protect system will be removed. Blizzard says that, “Any Overwatch player with a connected account, which includes all players who have played since June 9, 2021, will not have to provide a phone number to play.” The effects of this will go live as of October 7.

While this is something, it’s not the end of the SMS Protect system locking players out of the game. Those who didn’t play Overwatch and are wishing to jump in on the new, free-to-play title, may still face struggles if the system does not accept their phone number.

That said, Blizzard has shared that it will make further adjustments in this particular area as required. Let’s just hope that those who paid for any Overwatch 2 content, or even for the original Overwatch game itself, will soon get access to the game.

As for the ongoing server issues, Blizzard says, "We have addressed some issues and are in the process of addressing others, but players should still expect to see queues."

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