The game has soared in popularity due to the coronavirus outbreak, which may have caused its censorship.
Since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, the game “Plague Inc.”, which simulates the spread of diseases with the aim of destroying humanity, has gained much attention.
Now, attention has turned against the developers after the game was removed from the App Store in China, with the generic justification that it includes “illegal content” in the country, as determined by the China Cyberspace Administration.
The game was distributed freely in the country for several years, which indicates that the action is related to the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19).
Ndemic, the company responsible for the game, says it is unclear “whether the removal is linked to the coronavirus outbreak faced by China”, but this is likely the reason.
In the rest of the world, the game continues to be distributed normally on iOS and Android; this also applies to the “Evolved” editions, available for Xbox One and PS4.
“The situation is beyond our control. We are working hard to find a way to get the game back into the hands of Chinese players, but as a small independent UK gaming studio, the odds are against us. Our priority is to try to contact the China Cyberspace Administration to understand their concerns and work with them to find a solution,” says the company in a statement.
This is nothing new in China
Game censorship cases are not entirely new in China, as the country is known for its strong control over the country’s media.
Without a formal explanation of what caused the app to be removed, people started to speculate. Of course, the relationship with the coronavirus is the most obvious one.
The Fake News scenario
However, Daniel Ahmad, a game industry analyst specializing in the Asian market, points to other possible causes, such as the update released in December for the iOS version that introduced the “Fake News scenario”, in which biological threats are left out and the new objective is to spread rumors and conspiracy theories.
Indeed, the Chinese government has the habit of banning content that will “hurt public ethics, disrupt social order or weaken social stability”.
More popular than ever
Ndemic has found itself in a curious situation in recent weeks. With the outbreak, the game, which puts the player in the position to evolve a virus, bacteria or other pathogenic agents so that it becomes as lethal as possible, skyrocketed in the number of downloads.
This caused the company to issue a statement, reminding the public that this is just a game and should not be taken into account as study material on the spread of diseases.
“We specifically designed the game to be realistic and informative, while not sensationalising serious real-world issues. This has been recognised by the CDC and other leading medical organisations around the world. 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. ” said the company’s statement published in January.
Ndemic also took the opportunity to advise the public to seek information from local and global health officials.