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Plague Inc isn't a "scientific model", devs insist as coronavirus sparks sales

A deadly new disease is spreading its way across China and East Asia. With over 840 confirmed cases of the pneumonia-like coronavirus confirmed this month, concerned players are looking for ways to cope with the threat of infection. Increasingly, they’re turning to Plague Inc: Evolved. Ndemic Creations’ outbreak management sim saw Steam player counts skyrocket in the last few days. Keen to avoid an outbreak of disinformation, Ndemic have warned against using their global sickness sim as a basis for real-world disease control.

Granted, this isn’t shocking news to Ndemic. Since Plague Inc: Evolved’s Steam launch in 2016 (and the mobile original’s debut in 2012), the team regularly see player counts rise around big outbreak moments. But for whatever reason, the coronavirus outbreak has spurred infectious demand for Ndemic’s puke ’em up. According to Steam Charts (via the BBC), Plague Inc: Evolved’s peak player now sits 12,148 today – with little sign of slowing.

That’s a staggering climb over the game’s previous record of 4601, set back in April 2018. Such was the spike in would-be epidemiologists that Ndemic need to stress that, while designed with realism and education in mind, players shouldn’t be taking Plague Inc’s simulation too seriously. It’s a game, not your doctor.

“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.

“We specifically designed the game to be realistic and informative, while not sensationalising serious real-world issues. This has been recognised by the CDC and other leading medical organisations around the world.

“However, 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.”

A report from Quartz suggests that Chinese players hoping to cope with threat of infection are behind this surge. Posting on regional social network Weibo, one user joked that “The best way to get rid of fear is to face the fear itself,” with Plague Inc giving them a less fatal avenue to do so.

Originating in China’s Hubei province, the new strain of Coronavirus has claimed 25 lives at time of writing. A local doctor told the BBC that the virus is spreading at an “alarming rate”, with several cities in Hubei suspending all public transport to prevent spread. Despite this, cases have been reported across the region and as far away as the United States.

After their website began to show symptoms of overcapacity, Ndemic were forced to repost their statement on Twitter. For those worried about the spread of coronavirus, Ndemic have also linked to the World Health Organisation’s webpage on the matter.

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Natalie Clayton

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