WoW 4.1 Arrives, With iPhone Guild Chat?

After a long time baking on the PTR, the World of Warcraft 4.1 patch arrived this week, with the headline being two new high-level dungeons: 5-man remakes of the old Zul’Gurub and Zul’Aman raids. I’ve not completed either, but word on the street is that they’re fairly unforgiving, as most dungeons tend to be at launch. In fact, I was shocked to find a guild tank and healer paired together in a 20-minute queue waiting for DPS(!), making me question if I’d logged into a different game. I did give Zul’Aman a brief try, but we wiped twice before the server disconnected us and disbanded our group, which I’m told isn’t that uncommon. I’ll have more thoughts on the new dungeons after checking them out this weekend, and maybe even some video (something I’ve been dabbling with).

But the new feature I’m REALLY fascinated with is the ability to participate in guild chat via your Android or iPhone. It’s accessed via the Armory app, and is currently free to use (although who knows how long that will last). You log in, switch on guild chat, and boom, just like that, you can see who’s online and talk with them. It’s simple and functional and is a great way to keep in touch with guildmates even when you can’t get on to play.

If the feature turns out to be really popular, it’s easy to see Blizzard charging a few bucks for it, similar to the Auction House features of the mobile Armory. But I would recommend against it. As WoW continues to age and Blizzard works on its not-so-secret Next MMO, I think it’s far more valuable to experiment with new ways to hold people’s attention. The more engaged people are in your product, the less likely they are to unsubscribe and jump to something else. Let them chat with guildmates remotely, manage auctions, fiddle with their bank, etc. Maybe Blizzard’s next MMO has entire components that can be managed offline, offering a way to keep players hooked into your game even when they can’t actually play.