Thanks to Ratamahatta for the tip that Blizzard is running a contest to award 100 beta keys to their long-neglected, realm-less fans in Australia and New Zealand. Entry is only open to residents of those two countries, (except for Queensland or Victoria), and to enter you must send an email to [email protected] In that email, in 25 words or less, tell them “What will you be doing the week before Diablo III is launched.” Entries must be received between December 12th and December 31st, and they are going to announce the winners in three batches. Pay attention to these dates, as they’re of interest to even people who can not enter the contest.
Winners shall be selected by Sponsor at its sole discretion based upon which entrants display the most creative, interesting, witty, original and/or humorous description of how they intend to spend the week before Diablo III launches. The decision of Sponsor is final.
This seems to put a stake through the January 17th release date rumors a surprising number of people gave credence to. After all, Blizzard generally closes their beta tests a few weeks before a game release, and if they were thinking about ending the beta in late December or early January, they obviously wouldn’t be giving out beta key prizes on January 1st.
The rules also note that winners will be notified within 21 days after the contest drawing, and that prizes not claimed within 15 days will be forfeit. I don’t know the legalities of giving prizes into a beta, and I’m sure they won’t take 21 days to notify winners, but I’d assume that the beta has to run (at the very least) until the prize forfeit deadline of January 15th. If you take that date as the earliest possible end of the beta test, and assume 3-4 weeks from the end of the beta until release… well, you can do the math on that one.
Remember that old, off-the-cuff Jay Wilson remark about the beta starting about six months before the release date? An estimate we thought was much too generous, when Blizzard was talking about a 2011 release date back in early September when the beta was getting started? Six months from early September is… early March, 2012. Was Jay more accurate than anyone suspected?