The creators of the popular plague simulator say it was taken down by China’s Cyberspace Administration over “illegal” content.
“We’ve just been informed that Plague Inc. ‘includes content that is illegal in China as determined by the Cyberspace Administration of China’ and has been removed from the China App Store,” Ndemic Creations said in a statement on its website today. “This situation is completely out of our control.”
First released in 2012, Plague Inc. challenges players to try and wipe out the human race by creating a deadly pathogen. The more people fall sick, the more DNA points you accrue with which to mutate and become even deadlier. Because China is the most populous country on earth, it’s a popular place for players to put their patient zero.
The game’s removal comes amidst the ongoing outbreak of the COVID-19 virus. According to a report by the World Health Organisation earlier this week, the virus has infected over 79,000 people globally with 77,262 of those cases appearing in China. It’s unclear if the game’s sudden removal from China’s App Store, where it’s been available for several years, is related to the Chinese government’s attempts to manage public perception about the COVID-19 outbreak or issues related to new video game licensing laws that went into effect after Plague Inc. was originally released.
Plague Inc. surged in popularity in China in late January as the number of people diagnosed with COVID-19 grew. Something similar happened in 2014 during the Ebola outbreak. In response, Ndemic Creations released a statement on January 23 trying to discourage people from using the game as a source of information about the outbreak.
“We specifically designed the game to be realistic and informative, while not sensationalising serious real-world issues,” the company said. “However, please remember that Plague Inc. is a game, not a scientific model, and that the current coronavirus outbreak is a very real situation which is impacting a huge number of people. We would always recommend that players get their information directly from local and global health authorities.”