Bashiok’s been quite forthcoming with the dates and times and other such info since returning from his end of year vacation. Either D3’s far enough along that Bliz PR has loosened the leashes that usually hold the CMs back from sharing juicy details, or Bashiok is a believer in the eschatology of Mayan calendar prophecies and figures he has nothing to lose.
Bashiok did say there was a strong possibility of a demo after release.
We’ll probably make a trial edition at some point. It’s sort of a demo I suppose, but it’s a bit better because it’s essentially the full game just with locks put on certain areas. So you’d be able to jump into multiplayer games with your friends, but maybe you wouldn’t be able to play beyond a certain place and wouldn’t have access to all the game systems (certainly not auction houses) but if you choose to buy the game all that stuff just unlocks.
A full game demo seems perfectly logical, now that he mentions it. After all, that’s basically what WoW does for a demo / trial, and since Diablo 3’s on the same sort of Battle.net-only architecture, why not do it for D3 as well? I’m sure they’ll put a time limit on the free play, and include a very easy way to, “buy now to unlock the full game and keep your demo characters!”
As for the release date, what Bashiok said here is basically what we’ve been speculating since all of those beta key contests were revealed to run well into late January or beyond. The math is pretty simple, if we use Blizzard’s usual timing as a template. They’ve said that “early 2012” is basically the same thing as “first quarter 2012,” which probably means a release date targeted for late March, and announced in late January. Best case scenario.