The fans of Blizzard Entertainment properties are like a swarm of cultists, all wearing matching hoods and standing in a circle with torches. For the last several years, we’ve been chanting for the release of Cthu… sorry… I mean Diablo 3. The start of a long awaited closed beta recently has satiated Blizzard fans who are now breathing a collective sigh of relief that there now exists some tangible proof that the developer is still working on the game. We know because we’re playing it and will let you know our thoughts next week.

Of course, the beginning of the closed beta has raised obvious questions regarding when we can expect Diablo 3 to grace our platform of choice. Back in 2009, Activision Blizzard CFO Thomas Tippl stated that a release was not likely until 2011, news that floored the community and made Diablo 3 the #4 spot on our list of the 20 Most Anticipated Games of 2011. Sadly, early last month, fan hopes were crushed again when a Blizzard earnings report stated that Diablo 3 would probably not be released until 2012. Since the release of that earnings report, the clock has kept ticking and there had still been no word on when Diablo 3 would hit store shelves – The keyword in that last sentence being ‘had’.

Today, Blizzard President Michael Morhaime put up a global announcement on the EU Blog stating that Diablo 3 now has a confirmed target date of early 2012. While this is indeed sad news, Morhaime is quick to reassert Blizzard’s focus on product quality.

“Ultimately, we feel that to deliver an awesome Diablo sequel that lives up to our expectations and yours as well, we should take a little more time and add further polish to a few different elements of the game.”

Considering that this same layer of polish was responsible for the tremendous response given to StarCraft 2, undoubtedly there are fans out there who will continue to wait. In the meantime, Morhaime also took this opportunity to state that the closed beta going on right now will be extended. Unfortunately, Morhaime does not give a specific time frame for when we can expect the beta to end however, he did say that the extension of the beta will allow for more people to be invited in. Provided that you opted in for betas in your profile (a FAQ for doing that is linked within the blog post).

On a humorous note, Morhaime also grants a reprieve to participants in the Diableard Challenge, a test of ‘follicular fortitude’ that began late last month. Morhaime writes:

“For those taking on the Diableard challenge, we salute you–and now fear for your well-being and personal hygiene. We hereby issue an official reprieve to all Diableard participants, including Blizzard employees, if you want to trim or otherwise manage the lower half of your face. We’d still love to see your beardly achievements, and we look forward to seeing more of your efforts as we move into 2012, but not to the detriment of your workplaces and significant others.”

It’s nice to know that the Blizzard employees are indeed as disappointed about the delay as their fans are, but at the same time, it’s cool to see that their spirits are high. Let’s hope that their sense of humor is contagious.

Diablo 3 is slated for release in early 2012 for the PC though Blizzard has strongly suggested the game may also release on consoles.

Source: Blizzard