Dota 2's popularity hit a new peak on Saturday when it passed the 180,000 concurrent players point. A glance at stats gathered from Steam using Steamgraph turns up a new high for Valve's Dotalike, which has continued to gain popularity after a spike in September triggered by The International tournament. Dota 2's peak figure is second only to Skyrim, which hit 287,411 players shortly after launch late last year.
And no, it's still not out yet, but Valve are pushing out more and more invite tickets to current players. Valve have said that they're rolling Dota 2 out slowly to stop their servers from melting into a plastic puddle, which seems sensible given the consistent player uptake over the past year.
It's not just the expanding playerbase that makes Dota 2 one to watch, Valve's decision to allow tournament organisers to charge for tickets seems to be taking off. The latest post on the Dota 2 blog highlights the success of The Defense 3 tourney, which has "has earned several times more in its first week than The Defense 1 did in its lifetime."
Valve say that "while sponsors and ad revenue are useful sources for tournaments, they're indirect – the funding doesn't come from the tournament viewers themselves. We believe that long-term, for tournaments to be stable and grow year over year they need to be self-sustainable from direct revenue, and not at the mercy of changing attitudes in sponsoring companies."
As the year draws to a close it's interesting to try and guess which games will go nova next year. If Dota 2 continues to grow at this rate it could outstrip stern competition from League of Legends, Heroes of Newerth and Blizzard's own long-teased version of Dota. We'll have to wait and see. In the meantime, here's that graph showing how the Dota 2 beta has grown since November 2011.