Virus simulation game tops Apple’s App Store in China as Wuhan coronavirus spreads
Plague Inc. soars to the top of the paid iOS App Store chart in China
As China grapples with the outbreak of a deadly new coronavirus in Wuhan, a strategy game about wiping out humanity with a plague has shot to the top of the iOS App Store charts in the country.
Plague Inc., launched by UK-based studio Ndemic Creations in 2012, recently hit the top of the paid downloads chart in China, according to App Annie. When accounting for free apps, it sits at the fifth spot overall.
The game has long been considered one of the most creative and successful mobile strategy games of the last decade. It asks players to create and evolve a pathogen in an attempt to wipe out humanity. As a testament to its ongoing popularity, years after release it still sat around the top 25 on the overall App Store charts in China… until it spiked in recent weeks, right as the Wuhan coronavirus started to spread.
Hundreds have now been infected by the Wuhan coronavirus, and cases have been identified in a handful of neighboring countries. It causes pneumonia, and confirmation that it can spread from person to person is raising fears of an outbreak as severe as Sars, a related coronavirus that killed nearly 800 people in 2002 and 2003.
The timing of Plague Inc.’s rise to the top spot is creating buzz on social media.
“I shouldn’t joke about this,” a Weibo user wrote. “But when I was watching the live broadcast of the Wuhan outbreak, I genuinely felt like it was deja vu from Plague Inc.”
Despite the grim nature of Plague Inc., it’s worth noting that it has also been recognized for its educational value. One of the game’s developers was even invited to speak at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US.
As popular Weibo influencer Youxijun puts it, “The game ostensibly asks us to destroy the world with a pathogen, but it is actually educating us on science and teaches us how to confront it if we fall sick.”
Others are taking a more philosophical view about the game’s sudden popularity.
On Weibo, Chinese gaming publication 17173 wrote, “The best way to eliminate fear is to look fear straight in the face.”