Plague Inc: Evolved, the 2016 incarnation of the pathogen-spreading Plague Inc. series of games, has hit an all-time peak number of players in the last 24 hours, as spurred on by worries of the Coronavirus.

According to Steam Charts 17 889 players were in the game in the last day, which is a record amount for the title. As of half an hour ago (at the time of writing) that number has dipped slightly to 15 230.

People looking to the videogame for insight into the real world Coronavirus is not conjecture on our part. The game’s developer and publisher, Ndemic Creations, has released a statement about the event:

“Plague Inc. has been out for eight years now and whenever there is an outbreak of disease we see an increase in players, as people seek to find out more about how diseases spread and to understand the complexities of viral outbreaks,” the statement reads.

“We specifically designed the game to be realistic and informative, while not sensationalising serious real-world issues. This has been recognised by the CDC and other leading medical organisations around the world. However, 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,” the statement continues.

This ends with links to Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) article on Plague Inc, as well as an article from the World Heath Organisation (WHO) about Coronavirus.

Regardless of people’s reasons for playing the game, there are a lot of them playing. Aside from the virus itself, another factor in the increasing popularity of the game is the ongoing Steam Lunar Sale, which has Plague Inc: Evolved discounted by 60 percent.

We imagine that, those who were interested in the game because of real world news were then more likely to actually make the purchase once they saw the sale.

While we can only speak to players on Steam, thanks to the work of Steam Charts, we have to imagine that the game is similarly popular on other platforms, even if it is not discounted.

A variant of the game is also available to download on both iOS and Android.

Finally, we have to mention for the sake of completeness and panic: the header image above is a screenshot from the game and has nothing to do with any real events.

[Via – Reddit, Twitter]