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China Pulls Popular Virus Video Game Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

China has censored a popular video game called ‘Plague Inc’, whereby players spread a virus around the world, by pulling it from Apple’s App Store in the country.

The takedown was justified by claiming the game was ‘illegal’ content, which comes amid increasing scrutiny of China’s handling of COVID-19, including accusations of a cover up.

The game shot to the top of charts in the coronavirus-plagued country and received widespread popularity around the globe as people sought a distraction from the real-life epidemic.

(Photo: Plagued Inc.)

‘This situation is completely out of our control,’ said a developer and publisher at Ndemic Creations, which sought to contact the Cyberspace Administration of China to work toward a resolution, according to Reuters.

Ndemic also said it was unclear if the cyberspace watchdog’s decision was related to the COVID-19 outbreak, which some suspect will soon be labelled a pandemic by the World Health Organisation.

‘We have a huge amount of respect for our Chinese players and are devastated that they are no longer able to access and play Plague Inc.,’ Ndemic added, according to Agence France-Presse.

Released in 2012, the game has over 130 million players, the company said.

Apple and the Chinese regulator did not respond to requests from Reuters, AFP and ChannelNews for comment.

As the outbreak continues to spread outside China, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the new coronavirus a Global Health Emergency on Jan 31st. ( The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images )

Ndemic also said the simulation game had been recognised by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as an educational tool.

Daniel Ahmad, an analyst with gaming research company Niko Partners, told Reuters that ‘the game may have simply been taken down due to sensitives around the topic and gameplay of the title given the recent COVID-19 outbreak.’

Admad added that it might be related to a new feature in the game that enables players to create and distribute ‘fake news’ stories about the disease.

But he said he didn’t believe the game’s removal was linked to a new update by Apple that requires developers of revenue-generating games on its Chinese site to obtain a licence from the Chinese government.

The move has upset players across the world, with many taking to social media to slam the decision to remove the popular game.

‘I’ve played Plague Inc for so long, I’m so angry! It taught us to wash hands frequently and protect ourselves… Honestly, I learned a lot about infectious diseases from this game,’ one wrote on China’s Twitter-like Weibo, according to AFP.

According to the Health Department, as of 6.30am AEDT today, there are 29 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia. Nine are in Queensland, six in New South Wales, nine in Victoria, three in South Australia and two in Western Australia.

15 of these cases are reported to have been recovered, with the remaining being in a stable condition.

One person, a 78-year-old Perth man, has died.

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