ByteDance-owned studio releases coronavirus-themed game

In China, the publicity department of Haidian District Committee has partnered with the Communist Party’s official newspaper People’s Daily and casual games developer Ohayoo, which is owned by ByteDance. The result of this unusual collaboration is a mini-game called “Battle of Pathogens,” which came out this week.

pathogen

Image Credit: South China Morning Post

It’s a title with mechanics similar to those popularized by Fruit Ninja, except now you have to slice up viruses to stop them from entering the protagonist’s body. Viruses will respond to the player’s actions by mutating and replicating. Each round culminates in a health care tip popping up on the screen.

The project is significant from several perspectives.

First, it shows how the Chinese government continues to increase its control of the country’s gaming market. Here’s what People’s Daily said upon the release of the title: “Innovation in games is crucial to the development of the domestic game industry. At the same time, it is important to insist on good morals and social responsibility to ensure the industry is marked by positivity.” The game should help players “release stress from long-term restrictions on going out,” the newspaper added.

Second, that’s yet another game from ByteDance’s studio. The TikTok maker continues to aggressively expand into video games. To the effect, the company even appointed Yan Shou to exclusively oversee its gaming business. The title is distributed via Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, and the news aggregator Jinri Toutiao, which belongs to ByteDance. However, it’s also available on Tencent’s WeChat, which perhaps means that Tencent does not yet seriously consider ByteDance as its rival in gaming.

Third, the virus-themed project might very well become a success in the country. After all, since the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, the most downloaded paid game in China has been Plague Inc., a virus sim developed by UK-based Ndemic Creations. Plus, as millions of Chinese players are staying in these days, there has been a surge in play time and in-game purchases across online games.

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