“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,” Ndemic Creations said in a statement Thursday. Either that, or to engage in a bit of black humor.
The game, available for iOS and Android, as well as on Steam and consoles, came out in 2012. It has players pick a pathogen and strategize how to transmit it and counter actions by world governments and scientists attempting to contain the threat.
“Your pathogen has just infected ‘Patient Zero,'” reads a description of the title. “Now you must bring about the end of human history by evolving a deadly, global Plague whilst adapting against everything humanity can do to defend itself.”
On Wednesday, Plague Inc. became the top-selling game in China, the BBC reported. On Friday, Ndemic Creations said its website and servers were struggling with the high demand.
As of Friday afternoon Pacific time, the coronavirus — which was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan — has infected almost 1,000 people and killed 41, with cases now confirmed in Asia, the US, Europe and Australia.
Plague Inc. uses an epidemic model with a complex, realistic set of variables to simulate the spread and severity of the plague. The game’s developer has spoken to CDC staff in Atlanta about the game’s disease models inside the game. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said the game “creates a compelling world that engages the public on serious public health topics.”
But Ndemic Creations warns it can’t be confused for science.
“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,” the company said. “We would always recommend that players get their information directly from local and global health authorities.”