How to set up Overwatch 2 SMS protection as part of Defense Matrix

Overwatch 2 heroes fighting on New York map
(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

Setting up Overwatch 2 SMS protection on your linked account is no longer a requirement to play, but only if you’re a returning Overwatch 1 player. The controversial security measure, which is part of the new Defense Matrix initiative, means that players can only access Overwatch 2 if they link a unique cell phone number to their account, even on console. This has also caused a lot of players that paid for Overwatch 1 to lose access to Overwatch 2 because they can’t provide a phone number. Thankfully, Blizzard have now removed this security measure for some players, but new Overwatch 2 players will still need a number. Here’s how you activate Overwatch 2 SMS Protect for the Defense Matrix initiative.

Overwatch 2 phone already in use and authentication errors

At the time of writing, some players are experiencing Overwatch 2 mobile authentication errors while trying to set up SMS protection for their account. Players are reporting error messages on saying that their phone number is already in use and associated with another account, and others are not receiving verification code text messages when trying to add or update their phone number on

It seems that these issues are mainly on Blizzard's end, so you will need to be patient and wait for fixes or workarounds. Alternatively, make sure you are absolutely certain that your phone number is NOT already linked to an old account. You cannot use the same number for multiple accounts. For more help with
error codes in Overwatch 2, read out guide.

How to use Overwatch 2 SMS protection and add a phone number to your account

(Image: © Blizzard Entertainment)

NOTE: Blizzard is updating their SMS protection policy so that if you played Overwatch 1 and have a connected account, which includes all players who have played since June 9, 2021, you will not have to provide a phone number to play Overwatch 2. This change should come into effect on Friday, October 7 and you can read about other issues and changes in this bug report article. Accounts that were not connected to and entirely new Overwatch 2 still need to provide a phone number on their account.

Adding a unique phone number to your account is not just an additional security measure for you and Blizzard – it’s also required to play Overwatch 2 if you’re a new player. While you don’t need to activate SMS Protect if you played Overwatch 1 with a linked account, you should definitely make sure you merge your accounts for Overwatch 2 cross-progression to keep all your unlocks and stats. Here’s what you need to do to add a phone number to your account for Overwatch 2 if you’re a new player:

1. Log in to, click your account name in the top-right corner, then select ‘Account Settings’.

2. Click ‘Account Details’ and under the Phone Number heading, click ‘Add Phone Number’

3. Enter your phone number to receive an SMS message with a verification code on your cell phone.

4. Type in and submit the code on and you’ll have successfully linked a phone number to your account.

Do note that the phone number you use for Overwatch 2 SMS protection can’t already be in use on a different account. Furthermore, when entering a phone number, you cannot change the dialling code as this is bound to your account’s Country/Region. If you need to change that, you must do so through Blizzard’s customer support.

What is Overwatch 2 Defense Matrix?

Overwatch 2 sms protection defense matrix initiative logo image with D.Va

(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)
Overwatch 2 battle pass

Overwatch 2 battle pass

(Image credit: Blizzard)

Take a look at the first Overwatch 2 battle pass and see what skins and other rewards you can unlock. 

You probably know it as D.Va’s projectile-eating shield ability, but it’s also the name of a new initiative that Blizzard is adding to minimize disruptive gameplay and player behaviour in Overwatch 2 – you can learn more about Defense Matrix here but we’ve got a quick rundown of the focuses for the initiative. Overwatch 2 is a free-to-play game, which opens it up to many more players, and therefore extra security features are needed to preserve the game’s health and protect players from cheaters and other troublesome players. Here are some new things Blizzard has implemented or will be implementing to improve Overwatch 2:

  • SMS protection: Requiring new players to have a unique phone number linked to their account to even play the game means it is much harder to create alternate accounts to get around bans and use cheats. It also helps verify your identity and ownership of your account if you are hacked.
  • Audio transcriptions for voice chat: Machine learning will continue to be used to detect toxic text chat, cheating, and disruptive behaviour. This is being joined by a new audio transcription feature that allows Blizzard to collect a temporary voice recording of a reported player that can be transcribed into text and analyzed for disruptive behaviour. Do note that this system only works on a player that has been recently reported and voice chat recordings of that player are deleted “quickly” after transcription. The text files are also deleted “no later than 30 days after the audio transcription”.
  • New First Time User Experience (FTUE): New players that create their account and log in to Overwatch 2 after launch are met with the FTUE, which limits what can be played to avoid becoming overwhelmed when starting out. At first, new players will have to work through the tutorial, and other basic mode and will only have access to 13 of the 35 Heroes, but everything will be unlocked as you play. Competitive mode is now unlocked after winning 50 Quick Play matches too. Be aware that partying up with other players removes most of the FTUE restrictions, so you can jump in with friends relatively freely.
  • Ping System: As well as the traditional communication wheel that has existed in Overwatch 1 since the beginning, there is a new ping system in Overwatch 2 to help players communicate without voice chat. This system makes use of expanded comms and contextual pings to call out specific things during a match, such as marking enemies, marking a location that you intend to attack or defend, or starting a three-second countdown to coordinate with your team.
  • Endorsements rework: Endorsements have been consolidated and adjusted to help positive players maintain a high endorsement level and get rewarded for it. There is now just one Endorsement category, as opposed to the three categories that existed in Overwatch 1, and you’ll be able to endorse players on your team in each match.
  • No more visible player levels or Competitive Ranks: Overwatch 2 scraps the levelling and portrait systems seen in Overwatch 1 in favor of Battle Pass levelling and customizable name plates. In the pre-match screen for Competitive matches, player ranks are also hidden. Both these changes aim to limit players’ ability to judge others before a match has begun and should prevent things like players giving up, throwing matches, and quitting early.
Will Sawyer
Guides Writer

Will Sawyer is a guides writer at GamesRadar+ who works with the rest of the guides team to give readers great information and advice on the best items, how to complete a particular challenge, or where to go in some of the biggest video games. Will joined the GameRadar+ team in August 2021 and has written about service titles, including Fortnite, Destiny 2, and Warzone, as well as some of the biggest releases like Halo Infinite, Elden Ring, and God of War Ragnarok.