If you want an intense and fantastic example of Real Games Journalism, I recommend checking out Kyle Orland's exhaustive analysis of Steam user data at Ars Technica. It shows some incredibly interesting trends on how Steam users are buying -- and playing -- their games.
What I'm most interested in is what this means for free-to-play games and development in general. The top two games on Steam right now -- both in terms of total users and hours played -- are free-to-play. Dota 2 and Team Fortress 2 both cost nothing to play, are essentially multiplayer-only, and started out as paid games. (In the case of Dota 2, that payment was to get into the closed beta.)
Ignoring Team Fortress 2 for a moment, I think Dota 2 is particularly interesting. About four thousand human years have been put into the game since it hit beta in 2011. My Steam profile says I account for nearly 400 hours of that, so I can hardly feign surprise.
Steam is estimated to account for three-fourths of the PC gaming market so it's not surprising that a game by Valve, the service's creator, would have a top spot in downloads. Dota 2 gets understandably preferential treatment on Steam's front page just about daily. It's not surprising that a Valve game, according to Ars' statistics, makes up a fifth of total playtime on a Valve service. Read more »