So, we all know that companies love to capitalise on whatever they can and, naturally, they'll try to spin it in a way that suits them and their image. Some may not even do the latter, just trying to earn some quick money on the back of other peoples' misery. I'm not going to say that COVID: The Outbreak is certainly that sort of game, but it certainly is in bad taste. At least they're trying to spin.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of copies of Plague Inc. were made due to people flocking towards the eight-year-old game. The developer noted the increased attention and naturally released a statement as well as further developed the game with help from the WHO, creating a free mode about working to prevent a pandemic.
Amidst a lot of news recently where the games industry has been supporting those who are fighting the pandemic, other less savoury pieces were inevitable. Polish developers Jujubee (Realpolitiks) yesterday announced the release of COVID: The Outbreak, which will be launched on the 29th of May. The slight spin is that 20% of Steam sales will be donated towards the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI)
🌎 COVID: The Outbreak is coming to PC this May!
⭐ COVID: The Outbreak is a real-time strategy game in which you play the role of a global organization that has to deal with a global pandemic.
— Jujubee (@JujubeeGames) April 30, 2020
My large issue, if it wasn't clear from the title, is that I think this is the wrong time to launch such a title. Not only because of the game launching on the capitalism of the current pandemic, but also because Jujubee have allegedly postponed the launch of Dark Moon - stating the pandemic as a cause - while reportedly ceasing work on Flashout 3 and Realpolitiks 2, diverting work into developing and completing COVID: The Outbreak.
The diversion of work from other active titles to this game, in my opinion, shows a specific focus and intent to capitalise on current events. Despite any donations, this is almost certainly going to generate more attention than any other title by the developer.
There are claims that the game could be educational for those who play it, basing the contents on data published by the WHO and other experts that have been consulted by the company. Pawel Nitta, Head of Marketing and PR had this to say:
Here at Jujubee we are passionate about educating our audience while they are having a good time playing our games. Currently, there is a plethora of misinformation circulating the topic of the coronavirus, so we hope our strategy game will serve as a source of entertainment and education for our players.
Here are the stated features of the game:
Pandemic Management - advise the world what needs to be done in order to survive the dreadful disease; manage funds, staff, medicine, and research priorities.
Issue Emergency Decrees - declare national emergency and close borders, enforce obligatory vaccination, close schools and airports. Do whatever it takes to stop the coronavirus.
Research New Projects - developing new ways to fight off the disease is a sound strategy. Remember to be cautious as your enemy may mutate, rendering your newly acquired ability completely useless.
Unpredictable Events - how you handle the ongoing fake news, mass stockpiling of supplies, or people ignoring the incoming threat will go a long way towards deciding whether you will prevail against the disease, or succumb to it.
Construct Vital Buildings - build hospitals, emergency tents, research institutions, checkpoints, police stations, and a whole lot more. Every building you enact may become the decisive factor in stopping the outbreak.
Games Beyond™ - educate yourself on how a coronavirus operates, what can you do if you become infected, and why quarantines are issued. Understand why a pandemic is a threat to humanity.