In context: Disease sim Plague Inc. saw a surge in popularity following the start of China's recent novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, which wasn't very surprising. Though the real COVID-19 is a devastating virus (not just in terms of mortality or infection rates), the diseases Plague Inc. lets players spread are limited to the digital realm. Plague Inc. gives you a safe way to learn about and experiment with viral outbreaks without actually hurting anyone.
Or, at least, that's how most of the world seems to view the game. China is once again proving to be an outlier here. The country has officially removed Plague Inc. from the Chinese iOS App Store, according to developer Ndemic Creations.
"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 blog post. "The situation is completely out of our control."
This "very sad news" comes less than a week after Ndemic responded to Plague Inc.'s post-COVID-19 sales surge. At the time, the studio noted that, while Plague Inc. was designed to be realistic and informative, it was never intended to glorify real viruses or act as a "scientific model."
It's unclear at this time precisely what Chinese laws Plague Inc. violates. It's possible that no laws have actually been broken, and Plague Inc.'s App Store removal is directly tied to the COVID-19 outbreak, but we (and Ndemic Creations) cannot be sure for now. Regardless, the timing seems to point toward that possibility. Plague Inc. was popular in China far before COVID-19 began to spread, so it seems unlikely that the country's authorities were unaware of its existence until now.
Ndemic Creations is doing its best to bring Plague Inc. back to China, but as the studio notes, the odds are "stacked against" it. Despite Plague Inc.'s success, Ndemic is a relatively small team, and it doesn't have the influence of a gaming giant like EA or Ubisoft. Nonetheless, the company says its immediate priority is to try to make contact with the Cyberspace Administration of China in the hopes of getting Plague Inc. re-listed on the Chinese App Store.
We will update you if this situation changes, but for now, we wish the folks over at Ndemic Creations all the best.