The global spread of the coronavirus may feel a little too familiar to players of plague inc., the eight-year-old game that asks you to guard a deadly disease that seeks to kill all of humanity. Now developer Ndemic Creations says it is working on a new update that will turn the game upside down by saying “let[ting] players save the world from a deadly disease outbreak.”
Ndemic says it is “speeding up work” on the free new mode, which was developed in coordination with the World Health Organization and the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network, Ndemic said in an announcement. In it, “players will have to strike a balance between managing disease progression and boosting health care systems, as well as controlling real-world actions such as triage, quarantine, social distancing and public service closures.”
In addition to the update, Ndemic says it has donated $250,000 to the Coalition of Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and the WHO COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. plague inc. players will soon be asked to consider a similar in-game donation.
“Eight years ago I never thought the real world would look like a game” plague inc. or that so many players would use plague inc. to help them get through a real pandemic”, plague inc. creator James Vaughan said in a statement. “We are proud to help support the vital work of WHO and CEPI as they work towards finding a vaccine for COVID-19.”
In January, Ndemic publicly warned that players should not use the game as a scientific model for the then nascent coronavirus outbreak. As the game rose in popularity as the outbreak intensified, Chinese officials suddenly pulled it from the local iOS App Store, citing unspecified “content that is illegal in China, as determined by the Cyberspace Administration of China”.
plague inc. has been at the top of the overall US download rankings from the iOS App Store since late January, with similar popularity surges in other countries, according to data collected by App Annie.