WoW Cataclysm closed beta kicks off

If you're a World of Warcraft fan and you signed up to beta test the forthcoming expansion Cataclysm, you might want to check your in-box for an invite.

Closed beta testing, for invited players only, has started today on what game-maker Blizzard is describing as the most ambitious expansion to the massive online game yet.

Blizzard says that it will be inviting "a wide range" of players to join the fray, so it won't all be super-equipped level 80 veterans. Noobs could get a look-in as well.

There is no fixed date for the final release of the paid-for expansion, but with beta testing now under way, and six month of the year still to go, it looks like Cataclysm is on target for its promised 2010 release.

"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," said Blizzard co-founder Mike Morhaime.

"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."

The expansion will feature two new playable races, Goblin and Worgen, a new level cap set at 85, and a bunch of new areas, battlegrounds and instances to explore.

If you weren't lucky enough to be invited to the closed beta, Blizzard traditionally throws open the doors to a beta test closer to the release date, though the company has given no indication of when that might be, as yet.