Whenarrives on Oct. 4, you’ll need a phone number tied to your account to be able to launch the game. The news was announced Tuesday in a blog post from developer Blizzard, which detailed several systems, collectively known as Defense Matrix, that the free-to-play game is implementing, all aimed at improving security and in-game experience.
The blog post says Overwatch 2 is adding SMS Protect to help with issues of account verification and banning disruptive players. Free-to-play games sometimes suffer from higher rates of cheaters, so-called smurfs (experienced players who deliberately lose matches so they can play at lower skill tiers) and other disruptive players when there are no barriers to entry. Adding phone numbers is one way to block those kinds of players.
“The same phone number cannot be used on multiple accounts at the same time, and players can’t use the same phone number to create multiple accounts,” Blizzard says in the blog post. “A phone number can only be used once when making a new account, and certain types of numbers, including pre-paid and VOIP, cannot be used for SMS Protect.”
The restriction on prepaid phone plans could be a problem for many players: 38% of US adults aged 18-29 have a prepaid plan, according to YouGov data.
The addition of SMS Protect and other changes are designed to keep bad actors out of the game, but some of them — particularly the experience for new users — are a fundamental shift in the game experience, similar to new heroes being locked in the battle pass.
First-time-user experience changes
The original Overwatch took you through a brief mechanical tutorial and then just threw you into the chaos of maps and game modes and different heroes. Overwatch 2 seems to be taking a much more deliberate approach.
“The first phase of our new [first-time-user experience] rapidly unlocks all the game modes and the ability to chat in-game, and the second phase unlocks all the original Overwatch heroes over the course of approximately 100 matches,” the post says. “This focused experience eases new players into the world of Overwatch by teaching them about different modes, rules, and other high-level aspects of the game in an approachable way.”
Given that Quick Play matches generally take anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes, that’s a major time investment for new players to unlock every hero and game mode. But if you’re worried about not having the right heroes or game modes unlocked by the time you group up with some of your friends who have been playing Overwatch longer, the blog post specifies that most restrictions are lifted while in a group.
The notable exception is Competitive mode, which requires a player to win 50 Quick Play matches in order to unlock it, regardless of whether you’re in a group. This requirement is designed to give new players sufficient time to acclimate to the game before participating in the competitive environment, and it also gives the game more matchmaking data on the player.
It’s also aimed at keeping disruptive players out of the game, according to the blog post: “Disruptive players are unable to immediately affect the larger community, with things like voice chat and match chat unlocking later in FTUE. Brand-new accounts made by cheaters or disruptive players will all have to play through this experience, giving us the chance to identify suspicious accounts before they enter other game modes.”
Other Overwatch 2 changes
The blog post mentions a few other in-game systems that the Overwatch team is changing for the launch of Overwatch 2:
- Expanding the tools used to detect disruptive behavior, including using temporary audio transcriptions sometime post-launch.
- Endorsements will only have one category and can only be given to teammates.
- Prematch screens in Competitive modes will no longer display player ranks.
- A new ping system allows players to communicate more effectively in-game without being in voice chat.
- General chat is being removed (but match, team and group chats will still be available).
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