As the world is gripped with fear over the outbreak of a new coronavirus that originated from China, gamers have turned to Plague Inc., a mobile strategy title that simulates how a pathogen evolves as it infects the world.
Plague Inc. has found renewed vigor as sales have recently surged, particularly in China. eight years after its release. The Guardian, citing analytics firm AppAnnie, reported that it has become the most-downloaded paid-for game on iOS in China, and the sixth most-downloaded paid-for game overall. Plague Inc. has also shot up the download charts in other countries, including the U.S. and U.K.
In Plague Inc., players create a deadly pathogen, with the goal of eradicating the world’s population. Players upgrade the pathogen’s attributes, including transmission, symptoms, and abilities, taking it from patient zero all the way to wiping out the planet, unless the world’s health officials find a cure in time.
U.K.-based Ndemic Creations, the studio behind Plague Inc., said that the game was designed to be realistic and informative, while not sensationalizing serious issues. It has been recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other medical organizations around the world as an educational tool for people who want to learn more about how diseases spread.
“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,” the studio said in a statement, recommending players acquire information about the real-world threat from the authorities.
— Plague Inc. / Rebel Inc. (@NdemicCreations) January 22, 2020
This is not the first time that Plague Inc. sales spiked amid a disease outbreak. For example, in 2014, the mobile game’s popularity surged during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
The coronavirus has killed at least 56 people in China, with nearly 2,000 confirmed cases as the country struggles to contain the outbreak, according to CNN. The government has instituted a lockdown on various cities, including Wuhan, where the virus was linked to a market that sold seafood and live animals.
Outside of China, there are more than 40 confirmed cases across about a dozen countries, including three in the United States.
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