Jessica Goodfellow
Feb 7, 2020

Plague Inc game goes viral amid coronavirus outbreak

The surge of downloads during the novel coronavirus outbreak has prompted the game's developers to remind users that it is "a game and not a scientific model".

Plague Inc game goes viral amid coronavirus outbreak

A game in which players are tasked with creating and evolving a pathogen into a deadly plague that can destroy the world has become the most downloaded paid mobile game in 80 markets across the globe, amid the real-life spread of the novel coronavirus.

Plague Inc is a strategy simulation mobile game, developed and published by UK-based independent games studio Ndemic Creations. It has been trending as the top paid game by daily iPhone downloads in 80 markets across the globe as of February 3, according to data from App Annie. For comparison, it was the top paid game in only seven markets one month ago (January 6).

The top markets where it featured as the number one paid game include Asia-Pacific's Japan, India, Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, China, Philippines, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Macau.

It has also been the top app in the UK, the US, Brazil, Russia, Peru, Spain, South Africa, Italy, Colombia, Chile, Germany, UAE, Turkey, Argentina and Saudi Arabia.

It overtook Minecraft in the US as the top paid app on January 23, according to Apptica.

The game is available as a paid app for US$0.99 on iOS and free to download on Google Play. It features lower in the Google Play store—number one by daily downloads in only one market (Belarus) as of February 3—due in part to the fact it is competing in the free app section.

The surge of downloads during the novel coronavirus outbreak has prompted the game's developers to issue a statement, reminding users that it is "a game and not a scientific model". The statement, released on Ndemic Creations' website, guides people to obtain information about the coronavirus from certified health authorities, such as the World Health Organisation.

In the statement, the developers noted that Plague Inc has experienced spikes during disease outbreaks before: 

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.

We specifically designed the game to be realistic and informative, while not sensationalising serious real-world issues," the company continued. "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. We would always recommend that players get their information directly from local and global health authorities.

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