Advertisement

Plague Inc. smartphone game banned in China amid worldwide COVID-19 outbreak

Wide-reaching impact of COVID-19 as cases climb around the world
WATCH ABOVE: Wide-reaching impact of COVID-19 as cases climb around the world

A popular smartphone game that simulates the spread of deadly viruses and diseases around the world has been banned from the Apple App Store by Chinese authorities, according to its developers.

In a statement released Thursday, the maker of Plague Inc. said it was “devastated” over Chinese players not being able to access or play the game.

READ MORE: COVID-19 — Canada’s public health agency weighs stronger protection for workers

The company said it isn’t clear whether the game’s removal, which was ordered by the Cyberspace Administration of China, is linked to the spread of a new coronavirus that has dominated world headlines since early January. To date, the disease has spread to at least 57 countries and has infected more than 85,400 people. At least 2,900 deaths worldwide have been attributed to the virus.

COVID-19: Hundreds remain in lockdown at Canary Islands hotel after new case confirmed in Italian national
COVID-19: Hundreds remain in lockdown at Canary Islands hotel after new case confirmed in Italian national

“This situation is completely out of our control,” read developer Ndemic Creations’ statement.

Story continues below advertisement

The game, first released eight years ago, has been a top performer on both the App Store and Google Play and has been played by over 130 million users.

According to its developers, Plague Inc. has been “the most popular paid game in China for many years” and is an “intelligent and sophisticated simulation that encourages players to think and learn more about serious public health issues.”

World Health Organization raises COVID-19 risk to highest level
World Health Organization raises COVID-19 risk to highest level

The company previously told people to not use the game to predict the spread of the novel coronavirus — which causes a disease dubbed COVID-19 — after its popularity spiked.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

“Plague Inc. is a hyper-realistic model of the world,” the game tells its players. “Plan your strategy and evolve your disease accordingly.”

READ MORE: Iran prepares to test ‘tens of thousands’ for COVID-19 as cases spike

The game models realistic transmission and mutation mechanics of several diseases, with each infection starting off in a single country. It challenges users to spread that infection by adding transmission vectors and mutating it throughout the course of the game.

Ndemic said it’s now working to find a way to get the game back to Chinese players, but that the chances of its return to that market are pretty slim.

What measures have Canadian airports taken since the COVID-19 outbreak?
What measures have Canadian airports taken since the COVID-19 outbreak?

“We don’t want to give up on you — however, as a tiny independent games studio in the U.K., the odds are stacked against us,” the statement read.

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: Canada could move to more active surveillance of COVID-19. Here’s what that means.

“Nothing is changing outside of mainland China: we will continue to support and update both Plague Inc. and our newest game Rebel Inc. on all platforms whilst also working hard to try and find a way to bring Plague Inc. back to players in China.”