Blizzard is easily one of the most conservative developers around when it comes to announcing release dates, however as they reveal more details about the third installment of the Diablo series it becomes evident that the game is finally nearing completion.
Among the most interesting, and should we add, potentially controversial things to be learned about Diablo III is that the game will require an active net connection to play. Blizzard believes a high percentage of users have access to a permanent internet connection anyway, and even though piracy was a concern it was not "a deciding factor" in making the decision.
Instead Blizzard claims connectivity will be necessary due to the wealth of Battle.net features that complement the game, to name a few: persistent character saving server-side and the possibility of opting in/out of co-op play, persistent friends list, party system and matchmaking, the game's achievement system, and an auction house system that will allow real world currency to purchase items.
Blizzard does not plan to sell any items directly on the auction house, but will let players list items for which they will charge a fixed fee. The novelty here is that real money auctions will be allowed along with in-game gold and normal item trade. Gamers will be allowed to pull up the auction house at any time, with instant transactions of nearly everything, including characters.
The last tidbit of information that was recently disclosed is that Diablo III won't support bots or mods for a "variety of gameplay and security reasons". That is, Blizzard is expressly prohibiting modding from the upcoming game in spite of the success it had on the two previous installments.
Diablo III is expected to enter limited public beta testing sometime this quarter, most likely ahead of the Blizzcon October event, with a tentative release schedule before the end of the year.