Outside of video games, I’m sure that most people think of smurfs primarily as the little blue people in white trousers and caps, but that’s not the kind of smurfs that plague DOTA 2 and other online games. Valve haven’t suddenly gone all Gargamel, with Gabe Newell running around a nearby forest trying to catch little blue people.
No, the smurfs here are players who create an alternate account so that they can log in and play with ties to their main one. That can be for a number of reasons, such as trying out a new weapon in a manner that doesn’t affect your main stats, or more nefariously, to be matched up against less skilled players than yourself so you can crush them in battle.
Starting on Thursday 4th May, Valve will require that you register a unique phone number to your account in order to take part in ranked matches. There’s a one account per phone number rule and Valve are also banning the use of online virtual phone numbers.
Writing on the DOTA 2 blog, Valve explain that “Players using multiple accounts create a negative matchmaking experience at all skill brackets, so our goal is to add just enough friction to this process that the number of players doing this will be noticeably reduced. Having more players using their primary accounts will have a positive effect on both Ranked and Unranked Matchmaking.”