In order to hold players accountable for their actions, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II will require players to register with a phone number on Battle.net. The game will be released on October 28th, later this month.
It’s a recurrence of the practice that caused problems for Overwatch 2 players last week, according to PCGamer. The upcoming Call of Duty shooter is listed as one of three games that “require you to add a phone number to your Battle.net account” to play, alongside Overwatch 2 and 2019’s Modern Warfare 3.
The phone verification system, known as SMS Protect by Activision Blizzard, is intended to reduce toxic behavior among players by preventing them from creating an infinite number of new accounts in order to avoid bans or cheat.
According to Activision Blizzard’s support page, “limiting the number of free accounts that a single person can create helps keep players accountable for their actions, which in turn reduces toxicity and cheating and ensures a positive community experience for all players.”
The issue is that SMS Protect is only compatible with text-enabled mobile phones and does not treat all phone numbers equally. According to a separate Battle.net support page, “prepaid phones may not work with the phone notification service.”
It is also incompatible with VoIP numbers. This limits the service to players with postpaid cellular plans, which may be out of reach for many players around the world.
Last month, a Modern Warfare II beta player told PCGamer that they were asked for a “postpaid phone number” to begin the game, and that Battle.net refused to accept the number associated with their prepaid Cricket Wireless plan.
“It seems very wrong to require video game players to sign a contract with a telecom company before they can play the game they paid for,” they said.
Requiring players to provide a phone number isn’t a new concept (Dota 2 and Rainbow Six Siege both require it for ranked play), but there haven’t been widespread reports of issues with prepaid phone plans with previous implementations.
One player we spoke with was barred from playing Overwatch 2 after entering the same number they’d used for years to successfully play Dota 2.
Given that Modern Warfare II is available on both PC digital stores, it’s unclear whether Activision Blizzard’s phone number requirements will apply equally to players on both Battle.net and Steam.
Some Reddit users claim they were asked for a phone number when attempting to access the beta via Steam, while others claim they were not. Overwatch 2 is currently only available in the United States.
In the case of Overwatch 2, Activision Blizzard has stated that it is relaxing its SMS Protect requirements for anyone who has previously played Overwatch and has a Battle.net account.
It’s unclear whether similar accommodations will be made for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II players. A company spokesperson did not immediately respond to The Verge’s request for comment.