“It feels like being punished for being poor,” Overwatch player Richard Meunster told Kotaku over email. Along with 19 million other people, Richard and his brother both use Cricket Wireless, one of the prepaid phone services that Overwatch 2 will not accept for its newly instated, mandatory two-factor authentication system, SMS Protect.
Every single Overwatch 2 player, including those who had previously purchased Overwatch, need to provide a phone number that fits certain requirements in order to start the game. As part of those requirements, numbers can’t be attached to a prepaid phone plan, landline, or use VOIP. Though what remains of Blizzard’s heart seems to be in the right place—the developer hopes the requirement will cut down “both cheating and disruptive behavior”—players like Richard are forgotten. Not because they don’t play well or don’t care or don’t want to have fun, but because they can’t afford the right kind of phone.
Prepaid phone plans like Cricket and Mint Mobile allow people to pay the cost of their usage up front. Though unfairly maligned as Breaking Bad-type “burner phones,” prepaid phones are easier to incorporate into low-income budgets, with monthly cost usually between $15 and $50. Some companies like AT&T even advertise prepaid services directly to low-income customers.
Richard, a college student, uses Cricket’s $50 monthly plan because “if you can’t pay it that month they just shut down the phone instead of taking you to collections.”
“If I get a regular phone plan and then can’t pay, my credit score gets destroyed,” he said.
At one point in 2020, there were 74 million prepaid phone plan users in the U.S. alone. Richard is far from being the only Overwatch player being phased out.
“I am ashamed of having a prepaid phone,” one Reddit user, who posted in r/Overwatch and received one thousand upvotes in less than 24 hours, said. “Never thought I would be disqualified from playing Overwatch based on my ability to afford a phone contract, but here we are…Blizzard is the first company to make me feel too poor to play a game.”