Blizzard Entertainment launched closed beta testing for its much-anticipated World of Warcraft
, which aims to reshape the MMORPG's world and steal players from rival online games.
Slated to release some time this year, Cataclysm
is the third expansion for the MMO, following The Burning Crusade
and Wrath of the Lich King
-- both of which broke PC game sales records on their release. The latter is the most recent expansion, having shipped in November 2008.
Since World of Warcraft
's launch in November 2004, the game has attracted 11.5 million subscribers worldwide. That number hasn't moved much since late 2009, though, but analysts expect that Cataclysm
and Blizzard's other major release StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty could sell as much as 12 million units
looks to win back players who've abandoned World of Warcraft
for new experiences at other online titles, and also acquire new subscribers who've waited for an opportune time to start playing the established MMORPG, as the expansion revamps the world of Azeroth, affecting nearly every area and adding new adventures/quests.
In addition to increasing the character level cap to 85, Cataclysm
brings the return of "the corrupted Dragon Aspect Deathwing", who is responsible for the dramatic changes to World of Warcraft
. The expansion also introduces two new playable races, Worgen and Goblins, who've joined the Alliance and Horde in an effort to survive the devastation brought by Deathwing.
Blizzard has already started sending Cataclysm
closed beta invitations to fans who've signed up for accounts at its Battle.net online gaming service. The company notes that those testers will receive an early look at the game and provide feedback that will help it find bugs, address balance issues, and polish new content.
"Our focus with Cataclysm
has been to build on the knowledge we've gained through the previous expansions to deliver the best, most compelling World of Warcraft
content for our players to date," says Blizzard Entertainment CEO and co-founder Mike Morhaime.
He adds, "Gathering focused feedback during the beta test will go a long way in helping us reach that goal when we launch Cataclysm
later this year."