Original Story: Dota 2 has surpassed League of Legends as the most played "core" PC title in the West through the first quarter of 2013, according to a report by DFC Intelligence. If accurate, it's a big coup for Valve's MOBA, which is both "technically" unrealeased and "technically" not free. Of course, as those heavy ironic quote marks imply, neither of those facts mean much when Steam has become so flooded with invites that you could run out onto the street, shout "I NEED A DOTA," and be guaranteed that some passing stranger would hand you one. I'm serious. Try it.
The report, as covered by GamesIndustry.biz , measures players from North America and Europe using a variety of sources, including real-time stats from the 23 million registered Xfire users. DFC found that both MOBAs far surpassed the third most popular PC game, World of Warcraft.
"Usage of League of Legends has been steady the past year and surprisingly the huge success of Dota 2 did not seem to cut into its popularity as much as would be expected," said DFC analyst Jeremy Miller.
There was growth shown in PC gaming as a whole, too, with DFC reporting a combined usage rise for the Top 20 PC games: 22% over the first quarter of 2012, and 8% over the last quarter. DFC analyst David Cole pointed to some of the games that have caused this bump: "The past year has seen numerous blockbuster PC games that have really helped drive usage. This includes among others Diablo III, Guild Wars 2, Battlefield 3, Minecraft, World of Tanks and Valve's Counter-Strike series."
Okay, caveat time: Firstly, the DFC are only interested in "core" titles, not casual and browser games. That means Facebook's litany of horrors - including Zynga's crumbling empire - isn't being analysed. More pressingly, we don't have access to the exact methodology the DFC used for its conclusion. For instance, while a snapshot is next to meaningless compared to the overall trend, XFire is currently reporting League of Legends as being way ahead of Dota 2, at 21,075 players to 2,330.
Essentially, unless the stats are coming directly (and accurately) from the developers, it's hard to see how there wouldn't be at least some sample bias. While the DFC's report is likely a good representation of general trends, it's hard to know if it represents the full story. Certainly Steam are currently reporting 197,507 concurrent Dota 2 players - but even then, their publicly available statistics aren't granular enough to separate out the Western regions.
If there are two statements we can be sure of with some certainty, they would be 1) Bloody hell, MOBAs are popular, and 2) Hooray for PC games!
Update: Riot have questioned DFC's findings, telling Games Industry that League of Legends sees "over 500,000 peak concurrent players every day on just the EU West shard." Note that Dota 2's highest ever concurrent player count, according to SteamGraph , is 325,897 users worldwide .
We contacted DFC's David Cole for more info. He pointed out that their findings were based on hours played rather than concurrent users, stating that "LOL does have a lot more users and we may have underestimated LOL. Thing is we have never seen anything like it so have been pretty conservative. But Dota 2 is still big." The press release announcing DFC's report has since been removed.