The Starter Edition to Diablo 3 will be available only via a Guest Pass key until 30 days after the game's launch.
On Friday Blizzard confirmed that it will offer a "Starter Edition" at launch -- which is tomorrow, May 15 (or tonight at midnight). Unfortunately, it won't be open to the public from the start, but instead be limited to Guest Pass keys that are provided with the paid boxed copy. Naturally the only way to gain one of these keys is to nag a paying customer, or wait until Starter Edition becomes available for everyone thirty days from tomorrow.
According to this Blizzard support page, Diablo 3 Starter Edition will allow players to hack their way through Act I until they defeat the Skeleton King -- the very same campaign we played in the closed beta. There will also be a level cap of 13, matchmaking only with other Starter Edition players, and no Real Money Auction House access. All five classes will be available, but limited in abilities due to the level cap.
That said, Starter Edition doesn't have any time restraints much like World of Warcraft Starter Edition. Fans will be able to play all five classes up to level 13 for as long as they want. It's an extended demo that potential customers will eventually grow tired of and purchase the retail version so that they can hack and slash their way through Sanctuary beyond the Skeleton King's defeat.
Blizzard also said that it's launching a Profiles section on the official website shortly after the game's launch. This will allow players to review all of their character information at a glance, share it with others, and check out the accomplishments of the other player characters.
"You’ll be able to look at your heroes (or your friends’ heroes) from any page on the Diablo 3 site through our personalized menu," the company said in a blog. "If you’re curious about the exploits of your fellow forum posters, it’ll be a simple matter to click over to their profiles and feel envious of their gear or how long they’ve managed to keep their Hardcore characters alive."
The first release of the Profiles section will feature two elements: a career tab and a heroes tab. "We’re planning to add tabs that’ll show off your artisans and achievements as well," Blizzard added. "Profiles will be available on the site sooner rather than later, but you should feel free to share your suggestions and thoughts in the comments section below or in the Website Features forum."
As reported last month, the launch festivities across the globe begin today. Here in the States, the official launch event will be hosted by Blizzard and GameStop in the Great Wheel Court of the Irvine Spectrum Mall, located in Irvine, California. The launch party will start at 8:00pm PDT on May 14 and include multiple giveaways, entertainment, and contests offering exclusive Diablo 3-themed prizes including laser-etched desktop PCs from Intel. The team will also be on hand to meet with players and to sign physical copies of the game.
"In addition to the official US launch event, other retail locations around the country will open at midnight to support gamers looking to pick up their copy of the game the moment it goes live," Blizzard said. "Please check with your local retailers for further details."
Last week Blizzard said it may enforce a log-in delay of up to 45 seconds to ensure that everyone has a stable experience as gamers leap onto the servers after waiting nearly 12 years for the third installment. The actual installer will be unlocked today as of 8am PDT so that users can begin to install the game, troubleshoot any issues that may occur, download and install the launch day 1.0.1 patch, and be ready to play as soon as the servers come online.
Additional launch information can be found here on the Launch Day Preparation Guide.