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As with any good Blizzard release, we've been eagerly anticipating Diablo III for long enough that there's always a healthy dose of skepticism as to whether it will actually be released this year. We still don't know if this hack-and-slash will make it out before 2011 is over, but Blizzard has taken a big step toward release: the official launch of a closed beta.
While Blizzard has reportedly been running a friends-and-family beta for a while now (including some leaks), the closed beta will open the game up to a wider audience and should lead to plenty of coverage and hype in the coming weeks. Players will be able to take on a chunk of the game's first act as any of the five classes and check out crafting and multiplayer while helping Blizzard test server stability and hardware issues.
Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime called the closed beta "an important milestone for us as we enter the final stages of development on Diablo III." I'm sure most of the people reading this can agree with me that the milestone I'm waiting for is seeing a beta invite pop up in my e-mail. Fingers crossed! In the meantime, you can read Adam's preview of the beta from last month.