Right now there is a new strain of Coronavirus sweeping through China. The situation has gotten so bad that Wuhan has been quarantined, with no one able to enter or leave the area for the foreseeable future. Hospitals in the local area are so full that they’re turning people away, and the government has instructed everyone there to avoid meeting in large public gatherings. While I don’t want to make light of this incredibly serious situation, because people have unfortunately died from this newly emerged virus, it seems to be having an odd effect on the disease simulation game Plague Inc.
I’m not saying that because the entire population of Wuhan has to stay indoors they’re all purchasing a disease simulation game for their smartphones in an attempt to understand what happens next. What I am saying is that the rest of the world has clearly seen Plague Inc. on the app store and has decided that they want to give it a go because there’s a very real crisis that they can play a game about happening right now. I think the last thing that developers Ndemic Creations were thinking about when they made Plague Inc. was how well it would sell if a new virus or diseases outbreak occurred, but now that we’re seeing this correlation between sales and the current situation in China, it’s very hard to ignore.
If you haven’t played Plague Inc. before, the premise is pretty simple. You create a disease and unleash it on a city. From there your disease will infect people and develop new mutations over time. You can specialise the mutations in certain categories such as infectiousness and lethality. Ideally you want to create a virus that is highly-contagious, infect the entire world, and then develop those lethal side-effects that will kill everyone infected by it. At the same time as you’re infecting the world, the world will try to find a cure, as long as they catch your virus early enough.
Based purely on my knowledge of viruses from my time with Plague Inc. I think the rest of the world is pretty safe. If we start to see cases cropping up in the US, UK, and other high-population countries, then we may be screwed. Greenland will be alright though, they always outlive the disease and find the cure.
It’s horrible that there is a virus that’s lethal enough to kill people now present in the world that we can’t fight with a vaccine, but it has inadvertently shown a new successful way of marketing a product. I don’t think for a second that a PR company would fake a new virus like this strain of the Coronavirus to promote a product, but in the future a marketing strategy that comes close to that could raise a game’s profile massively. Maybe if Plague Inc. is selling significantly better right now Ndemic Creations will donate some of the profits to a Coronavirus charity, when they become available and the virus has been neutralised.