As part of Overwatch's (opens in new tab) transition into a free-to-play game with its sequel, Overwatch 2 will have restrictions on new players to help prevent cheating and "disruptive players," Blizzard wrote in a blog post (opens in new tab) today. Most notably, new accounts, which have never played the original game before, will have to earn access to most of its game modes and heroes.
Fresh accounts that start with Overwatch 2 will have "access to a limited set of game modes, heroes, and some other restrictions to onboard them more gradually," Blizzard wrote. The first phase of the "First Time User Experience" will unlock game modes and in-game chats and then you'll unlock the original cast of Overwatch heroes "over the course of approximately 100 matches."
To be clear, this first-time player progression seems to be separate from Overwatch 2's upcoming battle pass (opens in new tab), which will also ask players to grind through 55 levels to unlock a new hero (or pay $10 to get them immediately).
Blizzard said "most" game mode restrictions are lifted if you play in a group, but the game's ranked competitive mode will be locked until you've won 50 Quick Play matches first—previously you had to hit level 25.
All accounts will require a phone number for SMS verification to play the game at all. Blizzard hopes it will prevent banned accounts from returning to the game and the added layer two-factor security should help protect accounts from being stolen.
The company also announced that it will increase its efforts to find "disruptive behavior" through voice chat transcriptions, much like Riot does with Valorant (opens in new tab). Blizzard will convert the reported audio to text and run it through its "chat review tools," that include machine learning, and determine if it's actionable. It will then delete the text file "no later than 30 days after the audio transcription." Voice chat data from matches isn't stored very long, so Blizzard urges you to report players as soon as you can.
The blog post details a broad initiative to collate "anti-tamper, anti-cheat, and anti-reverse-engineering technologies," from Activision Blizzard and its external partners, as well as other small changes to the game that could help alleviate harassment and hate speech, like removing rank icons in the pre-match competitive screen and deleting the general chat from the main menu.
Overwatch 2 will replace the original game when it launches next week on October 4.