Over the past few years, there have only been a few apps I use that have managed to survive a successive number of iPhone upgrades. If anything, a new iPhone purchase is typically a great excuse to do a massive app purge. After all, it’s not as if anyone still needs to be playing Fruit Ninja in 2020.
One app, though, that I make a point to have on every new iPhone is Plague Inc., a game that has been a top-selling app on the App Store for quite some time now. If you’re unfamiliar with the game, it’s essentially a medical-oriented simulation game that challenges users to spread a deadly disease across the globe as scientists and health professionals look to contain it.
It may sound morbid at first glance, but the game is well-designed, immersive, addictive, educational, and not surprisingly, has won all sorts of awards and accolades over the past few years. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention at one point even opined that the game “creates a compelling world that engages the public on serious public health topics.”
Now you may be wondering: Why am I talking about a game, however popular, that was originally released on the iPhone back in 2012? Well, with the coronavirus still spreading, the game has garnered a lot of attention in recent weeks.
In light of that, the game was recently kicked off of Apple’s App Store in China. Ndemic Creations, the studio behind the game, issued the following statement on the removal:
We have some very sad news to share with our China based players. 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. This situation is completely out of our control.
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.
It’s not clear to us if this removal is linked to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak that China is facing. However, Plague Inc.’s educational importance has been repeatedly recognised by organisations like the CDC and we are currently working with major global health organisations to determine how we can best support their efforts to contain and control COVID-19.
We are working very hard to try and find a way to get the game back in the hands of Chinese players – we don’t want to give up on you – however, as a tiny independent games studio in the UK, the odds are stacked against us. Our immediate 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.
Nothing is changing outside of mainland China: we will continue to support and update both Plague Inc. and our newest game Rebel Inc. on all platforms whilst also working hard to try and find a way to bring Plague Inc. back to players in China.
Given the timing of the removal, it certainly stands to reason that it had something to do with the ongoing coronavirus epidemic. Still, the specific motive behind the removal remains somewhat hazy.