World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Hits In DecemberS

Forget 2011. Blizzard said today that the next expansion to World of Warcraft will be released on December 7. That's World of Warcraft: Cataclysm for PC and Mac, in an otherwise barren video game December.

Cataclysm is the third expansion to World of Warcaft, following the blockbuster releases of World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King, both of which, along with World of Warcraft itself, will be required for those who wish to enjoy the new release.

WoW-watchers had begun to zero in on December 7 as the real release date late last week.

In a press release today, Blizzard chief Mike Morhaime described Cataclysm as "a re-creation of much of the original Azeroth, complete with epic new high-level adventures for current players and a redesigned leveling experience for those just starting out."

The expansion, which is in beta now, rearranges the terrain and quests familiar to longtime WoW players, with the intention of making all levels of content feel new. It also raises the level cap to 85.

Official plot summary from Blizzard:

In Cataclysm, the face of Azeroth will be forever altered by the return of the corrupted Dragon Aspect Deathwing. Players will explore once-familiar areas of the world that have now been reshaped by the devastation and filled with new adventures. In an effort to survive the planet-shattering cataclysm, two new playable races — worgen and goblins — will join the struggle between the Alliance and the Horde. As players journey to the new level cap of 85, they'll discover newly revealed locations, acquire new levels of power, and come face to face with Deathwing in a battle to determine the fate of the world.

The expansion will cost $40 and work with Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7 and Mac. The collector's edition will cost $80.

Last week, notifications from retailer Amazon suggested that Cataclysm might not ship until January. The retailer had e-mailed gamers who had pre-ordered the Collector's Edition of the game to provide them with updated early-January ship dates. It is unclear if Amazon will be mailing the game late to those customers, but Blizzard is now committed to a ship date in early December.