Tech

Overwatch 2’s launch problems include prepaid cellular bans, failed account merges

Overwatch 2’s launch has been beset by all of the typical problems that come with the arrival of a hotly anticipated title. Server queues are tens of thousands of players long, and once you do get to the end of your long wait, you’re either booted right then to unceremoniously rejoin the queue — or, as I was, lose your connection at a far more inconvenient time, like in the middle of a match.

According to multiple Blizzard developers, the team is hard at work fixing server stability, including fending off at least two DDOS attacks, but the game’s launch problems extend beyond server uptime, namely to account merging and SMS Protect.

Image: Blizzard

Overwatch 2’s arrival brings with it cross-progression. If you had multiple copies of Overwatch across PC, PlayStation, Xbox, or Switch, you have the option to merge those accounts with your Battle.net account for seamless cross-progression. Currently, that merge isn’t working for everyone, and players are logging in to Overwatch 2 to find their cosmetics gone. Some of the most-viewed threads on the Overwatch 2 technical support forum right now are of players reporting their cosmetics aren’t showing up post-merge.

Blizzard is currently aware of the problem, noting it in the “Known Issues” thread on the Overwatch 2 forums.

A new phone number requirement is also causing an equal amount of stress and headache for Overwatch 2 players. Announced last week as a part of its “Defense Matrix” competitive integrity and safety initiative, all Overwatch 2 players will need to provide a valid “post-paid” phone number in order to play. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services and “pre-paid” plans were not acceptable, and that prepaid restriction is blocking a lot of people on national US carriers like Cricket, Metro by T-Mobile, and Mint Mobile from playing.

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

The problem is that, in practice, a lot of those prepaid plans work the same as a “post-paid” plan, with billing occurring every month for services like unlimited talk, text, data, etc. You wouldn’t know you had a prepaid plan until you tried to log in to Overwatch 2 and couldn’t.

“It’s annoying, arbitrary, and classist”

“I’ve been a Cricket Wireless customer with my bill on autopay for like six years,” Overwatch player Matt Laser told The Verge. “Upon entering my number, I am met with an error message that says ‘Please enter a post-paid number,’ indicating that my phone provider is not suitable to be used for Blizzard’s account protection.”

Laser said he’s lost six years of cosmetics overnight, including premium, limited edition skins, and others earned from “far too many loot boxes.”

“[It’s] annoying, arbitrary, and classist,” Laser said.

Using phone numbers isn’t a new way to combat cheating and abuse in multiplayer games. Laser said he’s been able to use his number to play ranked Dota 2 matches for years with no problems.

Prepaid plans are budget friendly for lower-income families and can be a more practical, economical choice since, at least in the US, they operate on the same mobile networks of premium carriers like Verizon. Overseas, prepaid seems to be a more common way to get service, especially in big gaming markets like South America and South Asia.

“Here in Indonesia, I have never met anyone who uses postpaid,” wrote one user on the r/Overwatch subreddit. “So I’m locked out just when I was going to try OW again. My total playtime is 1500 hours or so, and Blizz slams the door in my face.”

Screenshot of the Overwatch 2 hero Wrecking Ball, a small tan hamster standing triumphantly underneath his mecha hamster ball outfitted with machine guns and spider-like legs.

Image: Blizzard

On social media, people are sharing similar frustration, with one person saying they were ashamed of having a prepaid phone.

“I’ve been playing with friends and family for years, now I can’t play with any of them because of my phone plan,” the poster wrote on the r/Overwatch subreddit. “Never thought I would be disqualified from playing Overwatch based on my ability [to] afford a phone contract. Blizzard is the first company to make me feel too poor to play a game.”

Another issue is that it’s unclear which types of plans on which carriers are affected. Users are reporting the ability to use Metro by T-Mobile, while others can’t. Players are losing years’ worth of progression for something announced with only a week’s notice, and only if they dug into the details to find out exactly what was required. It’s become a legitimate barrier of entry for a lot of Overwatch players, affecting more than just edge cases.

Right now, the biggest problem with Overwatch 2 is the simple inability to log in and play the game. Once that’s fixed, hopefully, these other problems will get addressed.

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