Pandemic simulation Plague Inc. forced out of Apple’s App Store in China


The pandemic simulation game Plague Inc. has been taken down from Apple’s App Store in China — after finding renewed popularity due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Sales of Plague Inc. recently surged, particularly in China, eight years after its release, amid concerns over the coronavirus officially called Covid-19. The app reportedly topped the charts for premium iOS games in China and also climbed up in the rankings in other countries such as the U.S. and U.K. as well.

Developer Ndemic Creations also flagged the app’s recognition from 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.

The Cyberspace Administration of China found Plague Inc. to include content that is illegal in the country, according to Ndemic Creations, resulting in the game’s removal from the Chinese App Store.

“This situation is completely out of our control,” said the studio in a statement.

Ndemic Creations said it is unclear if the takedown is connected to the coronavirus outbreak in China, but the developer again raised Plague Inc.‘s importance as an educational tool, while it is working with major health organizations around the world on how it can help with the health crisis.

“We are working very hard to try and find a way to get the game back in the hands of Chinese players — 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,” said Ndemic Creations. For now, the developer is trying to establish contact with the Cyberspace Administration of China to talk about their concerns with Plague Inc. and hopefully find a solution.

According to Niko Partners analyst Daniel Ahmad, Plague Inc. “may have simply been taken down due to sensitivities around the topic and gameplay” amid the coronavirus outbreak. It may also relate to an update released in December 2019 that allowed players to create “fake news” in order to help the propagation of their in-game pandemic. Ndemic Creations recently rolled out updates that fixed the feature.

The game was operating fine before the 'fake news' update (even though it wasn't officially licensed to be distributed in China).

China does ban fake news in video games, especially sensitive info around govt/officials.

See extract below from policy document we wrote- pic.twitter.com/gMFMZeborS

— Daniel Ahmad (@ZhugeEX) February 27, 2020

The impact of the coronavirus continues to grow as multiple gaming companies announce delays and interruptions. The outbreak has disrupted life in China as daily activities in public spaces and workplaces are put on hold while officials try to contain the virus. With much of the tech industry relying on China for production and materials, a ripple effect continues to be felt — including a profound impact on the gaming world.

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