There’s something morbid about playing a game about the spread of plague while your country is under biosiege. But as China struggles to contain the spread of the deadly coronoavirus, going as far to quarantine 20 million citizens in the city of Wuhan, Chinese gamers have taken to some dark humour by unwinding with Plague Inc.
Ndemic Creations’ death simulator, where you work to destroy the world by evolving a deadly pathogen before humans can stop it, was first released in 2012. It’s been re-released on Steam since then, and the developers have since released Rebel Inc: Escalation, a military and political simulator that leverages some of the AI and algorithm work built for Plague Inc.
But it’s Plague Inc that’s come back into favour. Abacus, the tech and gaming offshoot of the South China Morning Post, has reported that Plague Inc rose to the top of the paid downloads charts for the Chinese App Store in China, and it’s currently the fifth most popular app in China among all free and paid apps.
Ndemic Creations even took the time to address the coronavirus outbreak, saying they were “getting a lot of questions” about the virus. That’s not uncommon for the studio’s official Twitter, which regularly posts links and faactoids about various diseases and scientific developments.
— Plague Inc. / Rebel Inc. (@NdemicCreations) January 22, 2020
It’s not a surprise that Plague Inc‘s original mobile version is popular again: it’s been downloaded more than 120 million times, which is a huge result for a paid app, and the developers have done tie ins with Rise of the Planet of the Apes. James Caughan, creator of the game, was even invited by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to talk about the game, with the CDC seeing the game as an unusual way of raising awareness about diseases and disease prevention.