China Pulls Plague Inc. From App Stores over 'Illegal Content' as Dev Team Reveals: 'Out of Our Control'

The developers of Plague Inc., a mobile game that lets players simulate outbreaks of deadly diseases, have confirmed the game was pulled from Chinese app stores.

In a statement published today, Ndemic Creations described the situation as being out of its control, saying the game is no longer available on the country's mobile app stores after being deemed to include "content that is illegal in China as determined by the Cyberspace Administration."

The news comes after the real-world new coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak which has led to a massive spike in downloads for the application, which boasts 130 million players.

The title, released in 2012, shot to the top of the country's iOS charts in January, attracting a fresh wave of reviews.

Since then, the real-world COVID-19 has escalated significantly, with more than 2,800 deaths and 82,000 total confirmed infections across the world at the time of publication.

"We have some very sad news to share with our China based players," the development team wrote in a blog post published today, also shared to Twitter. "This situation is completely out of our control."

"It's not clear to us if this removal is linked to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak that China is facing. However, Plague Inc.'s educational importance has been repeatedly recognized. We are currently working with... global health organizations to determine how we can best support their efforts."

The Ndemic Creations statement continued, "We are working very hard to try and find a way to get the game back in the hands of Chinese players - we don't want to give up on you - however, as a tiny independent games studio in the U.K., the odds are stacked against us."

"Our immediate priority is to try and make contact with the Cyberspace Administration of China to understand their concerns and work with them," it added. "Nothing is changing outside of mainland China: we will continue to support and update both Plague Inc. and our newest game Rebel Inc. whilst also working hard to try and find a way to bring Plague Inc. back to players in China."

We’re really sad to announce that Plague Inc. has been removed from the China App Store. This is completely out of our control and we are working to find a way to bring the game back to our players in China. Our statement here:

— Plague Inc. / Rebel Inc. (@NdemicCreations) February 27, 2020

As reported by the South China Morning Post, the removal comes after Apple agreed to enforce China's regulations demanding all gaming apps have to be licensed. Full context remains unclear, however, as it is believed the app has also been pulled form the Android marketplace.

Apple and Google have been contacted for comment.

In January, as Plague Inc. downloads spiked, Ndemic Creations urged players to always remember that it's a game and "not a scientific model" of how a real-world pandemic would take hold.

"We specifically designed the game to be realistic and informative, while not sensationalizing serious real-world issues," the mobile developers said in a blog post on its website at the time. "This has been recognized by the CDC and other leading medical organizations around the world.

"Please remember that Plague Inc. is a game, not a scientific model and that the current coronavirus outbreak is a very real situation which is impacting a huge number of people. We would always recommend that players get their information directly from local and global health authorities."

Plague Inc
A man holds a tablet device showing a screen from the video game "Plague Inc" as he poses in the company's London offices on November 7, 2014. LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty