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Modern Warfare II players will need to provide a unique phone number

Artist's rendition of an Activision staffer on the lookout for <em>Modern Warfare II</em> players without linked phone numbers on their accounts.
Enlarge / Artist’s rendition of an Activision staffer on the lookout for Modern Warfare II players without linked phone numbers on their accounts.

Players who want access to this month’s release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II will have to link a unique, text-capable phone number to their account.

That’s according to a recently updated Blizzard Support page that includes the game in a list of titles that require a linked phone number. The Steam and pre-sale pages for the game also note that “a mobile phone number must be linked to your… account to play Modern Warfare II.” Archived versions of that page suggest that requirement has been listed since at least late September, though PC Gamer was among the first to bring it to wide attention recently.

In justifying the phone number requirement, Blizzard’s support page notes that “limiting the number of free accounts that a single person can create helps keep players accountable for their actions and in turn reduces toxicity and cheating and ensures a positive community experience for all players.”

But that’s a justification that doesn’t seem to apply directly to Modern Warfare II, a game that requires a $70 purchase to play. Thus, banned online players would be required to buy an entirely new copy of the game in order to keep playing on a new account. That would theoretically serve as an effective deterrent to toxic online behavior even without a linked phone number system.

Oddly enough, Activision’s upcoming, free-to-play Warzone 2.0 is not included in the publisher’s list of games that will require a linked phone number on player accounts. Activision did roll out SMS verification for free-to-play players of the original Warzone in May of 2020 as “another step to provide an additional layer of security for players.”

Keep out the good

Cheater deterrence aside, Activision’s phone number requirement also seems poised to bar some legitimate players from accessing Modern Warfare II. A separate Blizzard support page notes that “pre-paid and VOIP phone numbers are not supported” and that “Blizzard Customer Support cannot bypass this limitation.” (Though yet another page uses slightly softer language to suggest that prepaid phone plans “may not work with the phone notification service.”)

Those restrictions seem designed to stop problematic players from using burner phones or free VOIP services to evade bans with fresh accounts. But players who use prepaid mobile providers like Cricket Wireless or Boost Mobile have reported issues registering their longstanding primary phone numbers with to access games.

Those kinds of issues helped lead Activision Blizzard to scale back the phone number requirement for Overwatch 2 players earlier this week. Now, existing Overwatch players with a linked account are exempt from that requirement. But Activision Blizzard has given no indication of any similar exceptions for Modern Warfare II (a similar requirement for last year’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare only applies to “new accounts,” according to the support page).

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II is planned for an October 28 release on PC, PlayStation, and Xbox consoles.

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