The worldwide spread of coronavirus may feel a little too familiar for players of Plague Inc., the eight-year-old game that asks you to shepherd a deadly disease seeking to kill all of humanity. Now, developer Ndemic Creations says it is working on a new update that flips the game on its head by “let[ting] players save the world from a deadly disease outbreak.”
Ndemic says it is “accelerating work” on the free new mode, which was developed in consultation with the World Health Organization and the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network, Ndemic said in an announcement. In it, “players will have to balance managing disease progression and boosting healthcare systems as well as controlling real-world actions such as triaging, quarantining, social distancing, and closing of public services.”
In addition to the update, Ndemic says it donated $250,000 to the Coalition of Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and the WHO COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. Plague Inc. players will soon be prompted to consider a similar donation of their own in the game.
“Eight years ago, I never imagined the real world would come to resemble a game of Plague Inc. or that so many players would be using Plague Inc. to help them get through an actual pandemic,” Plague Inc. creator James Vaughan said in a statement. “We are proud to be able to help support the vital work of the WHO and CEPI as they work towards finding a vaccine for COVID-19.”
Back in January, Ndemic issued a public warning that players shouldn’t use its game as a scientific model for the then-nascent coronavirus outbreak. As the game surged in popularity while the outbreak intensified, Chinese officials suddenly pulled it from the local iOS App Store, citing unspecified “content that is illegal in China as determined by the Cyberspace Administration of China.”
Plague Inc. has been at or near the top of the iOS App Store’s overall US download rankings since late January, with similar popularity surges in other countries, according to data compiled by App Annie.