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The Real Reason Plague Inc. Was Banned In China

By now, you've likely heard of COVID-19 — the coronavirus. This contagion kicked off in China before slowly spreading to other parts of the world, affecting business and travel in many regions. The video game industry has been particularly impacted, as a whole host of companies rely on Chinese manufacturers to assemble and ship their products. And with fears of a U.S. outbreak on the horizon, many game companies have pulled out of fan events, citing the coronavirus as a determining factor.


None of this explains why China just removed a video game called Plague Inc. from the Chinese App Store, however. It's not as though the title itself was the cause of the virus, or that it helped the illness infect more people. Rather, it seems China just arbitrarily decided the game violated the law, so it was removed.

"We have some very sad news to share with our China based players," developer Ndemic Creations said in a statement yesterday. "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."

As for why Plague Inc. might have been pulled? Ndemic appeared to float a theory, even if it couldn't be proven.


"It's not clear to us if this removal is linked to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak that China is facing," Ndemic wrote. "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."

Plague Inc. has experienced a surge in popularity recently, as gamers have taken to the sim as a way to try and understand the spread of disease. The coronavirus — while not nearly as dangerous as ebola — has taken lives, so the prospect of becoming infected is understandably concerning. There are plenty of virus-focused games out there, including just about every zombie title imaginable, but those aren't being pulled from sale in China.

The only rational explanation we can come up with at this stage is the fact that Plague Inc. allows players to spread a virus around China, and China — a communist dictatorship — has the power to shut down the things it doesn't like.

As we stated before, the coronavirus has impacted the games industry in other ways, too. It's entirely possible we could see products manufactured in China delayed as factories either slow down or shut down due to COVID-19. Travel to and from Asian countries is taking a hit, which presents a problem when you consider many development studios — as well as both Nintendo and Sony — are based in Japan


 And industry events have all but come to a screeching halt. Sony's PlayStation team recently pulled out of PAX East, where it was expected to show off a playable version of The Last of Us: Part 2. Now Microsoft, Epic Games, and a few other companies have stated they won't be attending the Game Developers Conference, which takes place in San Francisco next month.

There's a whole lot of fear floating around right now, and a whole lot of uncertainty about how the coronavirus will affect the games industry moving forward, too. For instance, it's believed that Sony might hold an event to officially reveal the PlayStation 5 at some point. With COVID-19 concerns abound, however, one has to wonder whether the company will do that or hold off until the virus is contained. Both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X are expected to arrive during the holiday season later this year. If China continues to struggle with the coronavirus, it's possible manufacturing plants would have trouble pumping those machines out.

The year for video games could look far more different than we anticipated if things don't start looking up. But if you're more concerned about your own well-being than getting your hands on a hot new console, you're in luck. There is plenty of material out there to read on the coronavirus, including some tips from the CDC. And if you're looking to educate yourself on the spread of disease in a more interactive way, there's a great game called Plague Inc. that could help you learn a few things. It's just too bad players in China — where the coronavirus originated — no longer have that option.