China removes epidemic-themed game 'Plague Inc' from Apple's App Store amid COVID-19 outbreak

An epidemic-themed game, Plague Inc shot to the top of the top games charts, has been removed from Apple's App Store in China

The Novel coronavirus or the COVID-19 has killed over 2,800 people and infected about 83,000 worldwide till now. In China, which is the epicentre of the disease, the National Health Commission reported at least 44 new coronavirus deaths on Friday. Meanwhile, the Cyberspace Administration of China has removed the popular pandemic simulator Plague Inc from the App Store.

Ndemic Creations, the developers of this game, which became extremely popular in 2020 after the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, said in a statement that the cybersecurity department removed the game for its content that is illegal in China, which is currently fighting the deadly COVID-19.

iPhone users can no longer download this game

Plague Inc.
Plague Inc.

The UK-based makers of Plague Inc said in a statement that they had been informed that the highly popular game "includes content that is illegal in China as determined by the Cyberspace Administration of China."

In their website, the developers wrote:

Plague Inc. is a huge critical and commercial success. Eight years old and with over 130 million players, it's the #1 strategy/simulation game worldwide and has been the most popular paid game in China for many years. Plague Inc. stands out as an intelligent and sophisticated simulation that encourages players to think and learn more about serious public health issues. We have a huge amount of respect for our Chinese players and are devastated that they are no longer able to access and play Plague Inc.

Unique features of Plague Inc

The unique mix of high strategy and realistic simulation in Plague Inc includes some stunning features, which are:

It should be noted that the Plague Inc tasks the player to create a pathogen that can eventually spread and wipe out the human population. The players can try different strategies, such as making a slower, more subtle disease to pass under the radars of researchers and must anticipate how governments will react to the virus.

In January, after the coronavirus outbreak, Plague Inc saw a surge in popularity and became the top-paid game on the app store in China. The developers of this game, who were invited to speak at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta about the disease model in the game, said in the statement that the "situation is completely out of our control" and "it's not clear to use if this removal is linked to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak that China is facing."

Plague Inc in China

Plague Inc.
Plague Inc.

In addition, Ndemic stated that the developers are trying to "find a way to get the game back in the hands of Chinese players." It also mentioned that as an independent games studio in the UK "the odds are stacked against us." But their current priority is to try and make contact with the Cyberspace Administration of China to understand their concerns and work with them to find a resolution.

The developers also mentioned that "We will share more information about our efforts to support the fight against COVID-19 soon. You can find our statement on the current coronavirus outbreak here."

But the removal of this game has triggered questions over whether the tech giant Apple would remove apps from its App Store on the request of governments around the world. It should be noted that the App Store is the only way for most iOS users to install software on their iPhones but after the Plague Inc. removal, Apple is facing criticism for enabling countries to remove apps according to their norms.

In 2019 China removed 194 apps from the App Store and later 94 more apps were removed in China on the government's request for "platform violations." The Chinese authorities also removed a Hong Kong mapping app from the App Store, during the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests last fall.

Related topics : Coronavirus