A couple days ago, Mike Morhaime talked at the Activision Blizzard Q4 2010 Financial Results Conference Call (read the transcript) where he was hesitant to include a Diablo III release in the 2011 financial outlook.
However, Morhaime told Kotaku at the Interactive Arts and Sciences Awards (AIAS) that 2011 is the release year goal Blizzard has for Diablo III.
A bit contradictory, but it's common knowledge that Blizzard Entertainment won't ship a game until it's met their quality standards, where they excel at.
I got to keep adding personal points of views here from past experiences, as someone who has played Blizzard games for a decade.
Is it possible for Diablo III to be on sale in 2011? The answer is yes. However, there are factors to be considered: Beta Testing takes several months, and the quality of their games undergo a lot of iterations both from their Quality Assurance (QA) Team and beta testers feedback.
It's impossible for Blizzard to predict a release date, even when Blizzard developers might have an internal release date.
Past experiences have shown that Blizzard has missed a few of their own internal release dates (these are usually not made public immediately). Examples: Burning Crusade was originally set to release by November 2006, but ended up going on sale in January 16, 2007. StarCraft was meant to release in December 1997, but it went on sale instead in March 31, 1998. World of Warcraft: Cataclysm went on sale December 7th, 2010. Starcraft II development was slowed down when developers were moved to work on a World of Warcraft expansion. The list of random factors that make a video game release on track or be delayed. Thus, Blizzard Entertainment refrains from providing a release date until a game has reached an advance quality standard bound post-beta testing.
Kotaku asked Mike Morhaime and Rob Pardo the following:
Will I be christening my new computer with Diablo III this year?
Rob Pardo: "We really, really hope so. That's our goal. Our goal is to get there. But you know, at the end of the day, we are going to get it right. That's more important. We're going to promise, we're going to get it out there when it's awesome. And, we're crossing our fingers, maybe it will be this year."
When it hits, will Diablo III be an experience perhaps too simplistic for today's gamers, I asked?
Mike Morhaime: "We always felt there was a niche that wasn't really being served that the Diablo gameplay experience was very different from a lot of games that are out today."