Swinefighter: net cashes in on flu scare
May 1, 2009
Almost as quickly as the scammers
, internet entrepreneurs are cashing in on swine flu with a series of online games and merchandise.
And like the flu, the games are rapidly spreading virally.
Millions have logged on to play Swinefighter
, in which players must innoculate as many infected green pigs as possible before time runs out and the virus spreads. The player controls a doctor equipped with a giant syringe.
Swinefighter was created by Heyzap.com, which hosts more than 6000 casual games that can be played through a web browser.
In another new game, Swine Flu Sneeze
, players control an infected human and the aim is to sneeze and infect other humans, who then spread it to other characters.
Children in the game are easier to infect and spread the virus the quickest, so earn players five points per infection. Adults and the elderly earn you 10 points and 15 points per infection, respectively.
Online games are relatively simple to make so, invariably, when a big event is capturing the world's attention, a game is not far away.
Casual game maker Games2Win recently created Saving Captain Phillips
, based on the US Navy's rescue of Captain Richard Phillips from Somali pirates. Players must shoot the pirates to rescue the captain.
The games claim to be educational - Swinefighter comes with official hygiene tips - but inevitably border on bad taste.
A British man recently earned a handsome profit from selling a web game he made based on last year's incident in Baghdad, when an Iraqi journalist threw his shoes at former US president George Bush. The game is called Sock and Awe
and the objective is to hit Bush in the face with your shoes.
Swine flu is among the most talked about topics on the internet right now and online t-shirt sellers are gearing up to take advantage of the hysteria.
T-shirt slogans include "I went to Mexico and all I got was swine flu", "Swine flu: bacon's revenge", "I survived the swine flu pandemic 2009" and "Maybe the Muslims were right about pigs".
In fact, an entire online store - "Flu Shirts
" - has been created around the swine flu niche.
Meanwhile, a viral marketing company was left red-faced when it took its profiteering a little too far, sending a note around to clients offering to conduct a campaign for them whereby marketers would hand out face masks with colour logos on them.
After the offer leaked to the media the CEO of the firm, GoGORILLA Media, retracted the "insensitive" email.
But that was nothing compared to the mania swirling around US President Barack Obama during his election campaign. Opportunists created a torrent of Obamaphemera including pizzas, bottle stops, bags, paintings, t-shirts, badges, figurines, cupcakes, cufflinks, dog jackets, hand puppets, jewellery, jam, peanut butter, masks, shoes, a paper-towel holder and even a votive candle.
Jokes about an impending "aporkalypse" aside, swine flu is fast developing into a serious problem, with Australians now being advised to stockpile food and water.
The World Health Organisation has raised its swine flu alert to phase five, indicating an imminent pandemic.
So far there have been 151 confirmed cases in 12 countries. No cases have yet been confirmed in Australia.