In a nutshell: Plague Inc., the eight-year-old strategy game that tasks players with wiping out humanity using a global plague, has seen its popularity surge over the last month as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak. The jump in user numbers has prompted its developer to issue a statement reminding people that it’s “a game, not a scientific model.”
In the last 30 days, Plague Inc: Evolved’s daily average player numbers on Steam have jumped over 148 percent to 1,672—it’s usually under 1,000. Peak players, meanwhile, reached a record 17,889. The previous highest number of concurrent players was 4,601 back in April 2018.
In a statement posted to Twitter, developer Ndemic Creations revealed that the high numbers had also knocked the game’s website offline. “Plague Inc. has been out for eight years now and 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.”
In the game, players can pick different traits for their disease to make it more deadly, such as its symptoms, how it spreads, and how easily it can be prevented. The studio says Plague Inc. was designed to be “realistic and informative, while not sensationalising serious real-world issues. This is something it says has been acknowledged by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and other leading medical bodies.”
Our website is currently offline due to very high player numbers. I'm copying our statement on the coronavirus outbreak here so people can still see it.https://t.co/pA6CUS7nJI pic.twitter.com/StXP6aemDe— Plague Inc. / Rebel Inc. (@NdemicCreations) 24 January 2020
The most important part of the statement reads: “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. We would always recommend that players get their information directly from local and global health authorities.”
The BBC reports that Plague Inc. recently became the best-selling app in China following the outbreak of the Coronavirus, which has infected close to 3,000 people and killed at least 80. Many firms in China are taking precautions to protect workers from infection, including Huawei, which postponed its annual developer conference that was due to take place in Shenzhen, 600 miles South of Wuhan—the center of the outbreak.