Funnily enough the spread of coronavirus caused a spike in downloads of the infectious mobile title Plague Inc, especially in China where the disease has been most prevalent. In a move that some may not find surprising, depending on their opinion of the Chinese government and Apple, the game has now been pulled from the iOS App Store at the behest of the Chinese government.
We’re really sad to announce that Plague Inc. has been removed from the China App Store. This is completely out of our control and we are working to find a way to bring the game back to our players in China. Our statement here: https://t.co/oYkHHkMbgw pic.twitter.com/5wQ93NsCKw
— Plague Inc. / Rebel Inc. (@NdemicCreations) February 27, 2020
According to developer Ndemic, the game was removed from the Chinese app store because it “includes content that is illegal in China as determined by the Cyberspace Administration of China”. Apple being Apple has bowed to those demands, as it always does. Because it presumably doesn't want to land on the wrong side of the Chinese government and lose access to a lucrative market.
What the illegal content in Plague Inc was isn't clear, though Daniel Ahmad, an analyst for Niko Partners, has speculated that it could be to do with December's fake news update - an update where misinformation helps the spread of the disease. And in the mode's tutorial the disease will always start in China.
Number 3 could be the most likely reason as the game recently released a 'fake news' update in the iOS version that allows people to create misinformation.
But again, that's just speculation and the CAC hasn't released an official reason just yet. pic.twitter.com/uJnpdLIGjr
— Daniel Ahmad (@ZhugeEX) February 27, 2020
While it may seem suspicious, Ndemic said that it's not clear whether the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak factored into China's decision to have the game pulled, but it is working hard to ensure the game can return to the hands of Chinese players - especially given the company's insistence that the game can also be an educational tool when such outbreaks occur.
Plague Inc is still available outside of China as it always was, and that's not going to change anytime soon.