Would the requirement to link a phone number to a LoL account be good for the game? Riot responds

Will Riot require players to provide a phone number in order to play?

League of Legends struggles with many problems. One of them is the toxicity for which the Riot’s title is famous, and the phenomenon of smurfing, i.e. the creation of new accounts by experienced players to play in the ranked queue. The problem can be seen when an advanced player is matched against a weaker player, which ultimately spoils the experience of the game.

Another form of competition that LoL fans have access to is Clash. Riot, in order to protect themselves from players who would like to play on a level other than theirs, introduced the requirement to connect a phone number to their accounts to start playing. Players are thinking about a similar solution for the standard ranked queue. What does Riot say?

Designer on linking a phone number to your Riot account

A user with the nickname redditkens wrote a post in which you can read that he was thinking about introducing phone authentication for the account. He also mentioned that this solution has already been used in the case of the Clash tournament. Why doesn’t it apply to all LoL players?

I realized they use this fir Clash and now I’m really wondering why they don’t just implement it for current and new accounts

Soon after the query was published, a response from the studio employee – riotdanhonks – the person responsible for security at Riot Games, appeared.

I don’t work on the team that would make this decision, but I do work on the security team. SMS verification for MFA was something we were considering while designing what our MFA solution should look like, and many of the problems with SMS verification apply here. Answering specifically from a privacy and security point of view, here:

  • Not everyone has a phone or cell reception or can receive texts for free. These people should be able to play ranked.

  • Requiring a phone number to play ranked means tracking many tens of millions of phone numbers, significantly increasing the amount of personal information Riot has to collect on players. This increases Riot’s liability, but also increases the amount of data you have to provide in order to play League. Each piece of personal information we collect on you has to be stored, with retention periods, in specific ways, as well. This isn’t to say that GDPR is a bad thing (it’s not) but there is a duty of care which has to be taken into the equation.

  • Having to collect a rather sensitive piece of personal information to prevent rare events is difficult to justify when alternative approaches exist.

Rioter also mentions that, unlike Clash, where one-week games may not be enough to recognize a smurf, there is no such need for ranked games, and the current system handles such players very well.

With “regular” matchmade games, it’s a bit easier to identify if someone is a smurf or otherwise not new to League, as anyone who has ever leveled an alt account can attest to. My most recent alt account which I made was playing vs players of my normal rank within a few matchmade games.

In addition, there is an important argument that not everyone who wants to play rankings has a telephone with communication capability.

I’m not sure that asking the entire ranked playing player base to both have a phone, have cell phone service and provide that phone number to Riot in order to be able to continue playing, or to start playing, ranked is an appropriate measure in order to curtail toxicity from banned accounts, given how rare a permanently banned account.

According to what Rioter writes, it does not seem that League of Legends will be verified with the phone number that would be required to play.