Pandemic video game 'Plague Inc.' surges in popularity as coronavirus spreads
TORONTO -- A doomsday video game that simulates the spread of a deadly pandemic has quickly become the bestselling app in several countries amid the coronavirus outbreak.
As of Saturday morning, “Plague Inc.” was ranked the top paid-for-app for iOS devices in countries such as China, Canada, U.S., France, Germany and the U.K., according to the analytics firm AppAnnie.
On Wednesday, just two days after China announced the pneumonia-like coronavirus had spread to cities outside of Wuhan, the strategy video game had reached the top of the app charts in China.
In response to the sudden spike in popularity, the game’s British developers, Ndemic Creations, said they were receiving a lot of questions about the coronavirus outbreak and directed users to the World Health Organization’s website for information.
By Friday, the developers said their website and servers for certain scenarios in the game were “struggling to cope with very high player numbers.”
According to Ndemic Creation’s website, “Plague Inc.” tasks players with developing a pathogen that can adapt and spread before scientists can develop a cure for it in order to “bring about the end of human history.”
While the game has been around since 2012, the developers said it has seen more downloads during real-world outbreaks.
“Plague Inc. has been out for eight years now and whenever there is an outbreak of disease we see an increase in players, as people seek to find out more about how diseases spread and to understand the complexities of viral outbreaks,” Ndemic Creations said in a statement Friday.
The company cautioned, however, that players seeking information about actual pathogens should go directly to local and global health authorities and not the game.
“We specifically designed the game to be realistic and informative while not sensationalizing serious real-world issues,” the statement read. “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 coronavirus has infected more than 1,200 people and killed at least 41, according to Chinese authorities. The virus can cause cold- and flu-like symptoms, including couch and fever, as well as shortness of breath in severe cases.