Plague Inc., one of the Apple App Store’s most popular iPhone games, has been removed from China’s App Store after the country’s Cyberspace Administration determined that “it includes content that is illegal in China.” Ndemic Creations, the maker of the game, in which users take the role of an infectious disease with the goal of wiping out the world’s population, announced the news Thursday. In its statement, Ndemic said it is unsure if the move is related to the ongoing spread of coronavirus.

“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.,” the company wrote in a statement on its website. “Plague Inc.’s educational importance has been repeatedly recognised by organisations like the CDC and we are currently working with major global health organisations to determine how we can best support their efforts to contain and control covid-19.”

Ndemic Creations has not replied to requests by The Post for additional comment. The game has over 130 million players since its 2012 release, according to its maker, and has regularly been one of the App Store’s top downloads. According to a BBC report, it was the best-selling app in China at one time in January 2020.

The removal of apps from the China App Store over objectionable content has been an ongoing issue, and one that has earned Apple some criticism. According to a tally by Apple from Jan. 1 - June 30 of 2019, 217 apps had been removed from App Stores serving particular countries or regions, with 194 of them removed from the China App Store. Those removals stemmed from government requests due to legal violations. An additional 94 apps were removed after government requests related to “platform violations” or conflicts with Apple’s own policies, many related to gambling, according to CNBC.

Following the game’s spike in popularity in January, Ndemic issued a statement urging players not to use the game as a scientific simulation for the spread of coronavirus.

As noted in a story by Ars Technica, the game also received an update in December in which players could generate “fake news” to deceive the public. Industry analyst Daniel Ahmad, who covers Asian markets for Niko Partners, noted that other plague or virus-related games are still available in the China App Store. Additionally, he notes that China has previously banned or restricted games that “harm the public ethics, disrupt social order, or undermine social stability,” as well as games with “false information.”

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