'Plague Inc.' changing sides with anti-pandemic update

'Plague Inc' debuted in 2012 and most recently spread to Nintendo Switch in 2019

Viral simulation "Plague Inc." has spent eight years showing players how pandemics spread. Now it's flipping the script through an outbreak-stopping update.

The studio behind "Plague Inc." is working on a new mode that will have players working to stop a viral outbreak rather than speed its spread.

As a strategy simulation modelled on real-world conditions, "Plague Inc." found success by having players attempt to develop and influence the global distribution of a deadly pathogen.

Available across iOS and Android for mobile, and as "Plague Inc: Evolved" on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and Xbox One as well as Windows, Mac and Linux computers, the game familiarizes players with the way that bacteria, parasites, and various viruses -- real and fictional -- infect human populations.

Now its developer is taking an even more direct approach in healthcare education.

Ndemic Creations is both donating a combined $250,000 USD to the Coalition of Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the World Health Organization's COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, and working on a new update for the game.

"Eight years ago, I never imagined the real world would come to resemble a game of Plague Inc. or that so many players would be using Plague Inc. to help them get through an actual pandemic," said the game's creator, James Vaughan.

The team is also devoting more resources to a game mode, free during the ongoing pandemic, which "lets players save the world from a deadly disease outbreak."

"Players will have to balance managing disease progression and boosting healthcare systems as well as controlling real-world actions such as triaging, quarantining, social distancing and closing of public services."

It's being developed in partnership with the WHO and the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network, among others.

Recent updates have included a Fake News update about conspiracy theories and political disinformation, Simian Flu, and an anti-vaccination scenario, while players are also able to create and share their own customized challenges.