Plague Inc has been removed from the iOS store in China, following a surge in popularity

By Sam Quirke,
If you like Plague Inc: Evolved, the eccentric strategy game where you play a lethal virus out to destroy humanity, you probably know that its iOS App Store version has been the focus of some notoriety this year. Shortly after the coronavirus outbreak in China, the game suddenly shot to the top of the Chinese App Store – even though the game is about eight years old. Now the app has been removed from China's iOS App Store completely, according to its independent developers Ndemic Creations.

11/06/14 - Screen 1

The news comes directly from the developer's website via analyst Daniel Ahmad, who speculated on the possible reasons for its removal. There are other factors that could be at play apart from the obvious, according to Ahmad. Firstly, the game pre-dates China's more strict licensing laws introduced in recent years. However, the most pressing concern is likely that the game is seen to be misleading people. The early speculation about Plague Inc's sudden post-COVID success was that people were mistakenly downloading the game thinking that it was either educational, or at least provided an accurate simulation of viral spread. Anyone who has played Plague Inc knows that the strategy game is full of knowing puns and jokes – it'd be hard to take the game too seriously. Nevertheless, the developers took to Twitter and their own blog earlier in the year to alert new players, reminding them that Plague Inc's gamified methods of infection and transmission shouldn't be seen as advice or realistic projection.

Unfortunately, Ndemic might have had a larger role in its game's own notoriety than simply being a related app. The developer's Twitter feed has long been an armchair-expert source of news related to plagues and viruses, some of which might be seen as controversial by particular authorities. Though tongue-in-cheek, a recent update to the game focused on the idea of fake news. As Daniel Ahmad pointed out on Twitter, it's not a great idea to try and sell a game that includes even humourous misinformation, especially if that misinformation can be tied back to the Chinese government.

Plague Inc includes an automated news ticker that can generate statements about any country's in-game, fictional government as it reacts to your spreading disease – which could lead to some problematic declarations from an admittedly imaginary Chinese government. It's possible that the game's popularity simply brought it to the attention of policy enforcers that had overlooked it. The Fake News update originally arrived in December 2019, but a bug-fixing patch was reportedly released just yesterday, which may have alerted Chinese regulators.

All in all, it's a strange situation for Ndemic to be in. While the ban is undoubtedly a blow, the game has still enjoyed top billing in many other international app stores because of its more recent notoriety. Despite all of this drama, it's actually a very good little strategy game that I recommend picking up. The Plague Inc Evolved achievements list on Xbox One is a tricky thing to complete, but luckily there's a whole bunch of guides and advice available on each achievement page.
Sam Quirke
Written by Sam Quirke
Sam has been a Newshound since 2016 and is now the Editor for both TrueAchievements and TrueTrophies. He loves gaming on all devices and in all genres. He remains a stubborn Assassin's Creed and Pokémon fan.