Hi friends, it’s Zainabb, here again with this month’s cosy gaming news! Listen, I don’t want to get too excited because who knows when it’ll actually release, but I cannot wait for Tales of the Shire, a Lord of the Rings game of a genre I particularly enjoy. I don’t even like hobbits that much, but please! Let me live in Middle-Earth! Let me cook and harvest in Middle-Earth! It’s all I want.

Before we dive into the news properly, please check out the Palestinian Relief Bundle on itch.io, which features at least a couple of cosy games among its 373 items. You can buy the bundle for $8 or more, and all proceeds are going to the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund. The bundle is available until May 6 so go get it now!

Other resources to support Palestinian people include The Palestine Academy, the Palestinian Feminist Collective’s amazing action toolkit and my own newsletter, Crips for Palestine. If you’re able, please donate to Medical Aid for Palestinians or Crips for eSims for Gaza.

New Tales of the Shire Trailer Depicts a Cosy Hobbit Life

Hobbit! Time! A full announcement trailer has dropped for upcoming Lord of the Rings cosy game, Tales of the Shire. The game is set to release in late 2024 for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, Nintendo Switch, and PC, and I truly cannot wait.

The trailer depicts tranquil scenes of a little village in the Shire, where Hobbits fish, farm, cook, and make friends. Players will also be able to decorate their hobbit hole and garden, and explore the local area. Gandalf even makes a cameo at the end of the trailer.

The game is being developed by Private Division and Wētā Workshop Game Studio, and you can watch the trailer below.

Life is Strange Studio Deck Nine Accused of Toxic Working Conditions

Content warning: mentions of hate speech, discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying.

Current Life is Strange developer, Deck Nine, has been accused of a toxic work culture by former and current employees, according to a new report at IGN. Developers found several hidden references to Nazi ideology while working on the next instalment in the series, but their concerns were not taken seriously by management. Given the series’ positive reputation amongst queer and marginalised gamers, Deck Nine workers understandably expected management to clamp down on the hateful symbols and references they’d found. Instead they’ve seen senior members of staff double down on toxicity at the workplace.

Current and former workers at the studio allege that, alongside allowing hate speech and discrimination to fester, senior management has protected abusive leaders, failed to end bullying of marginalised workers, and encouraged crunch. One worker reported working 70+ hours a week on Life is Strange: True Colors, with much of the pressure to work such long hours coming from Deck Nine owner Square Enix.

Aside from exploitative working hours, marginalised team members report being bullied for advocating internally for improvements to the series’ representation of queer folks and people of colour, such as being explicit in marketing materials about True Colors‘ protagonist’s bisexuality. Workers also allegedly experienced harmful behaviours from managers, including sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct, transphobia, racism, and sexism. In particular, multiple women have accused Deck Nine CCO and narrative director Zak Garriss of abusive behaviour and sexual harassment, alongside alleged racism and other bigoted conduct. Garriss eventually quit and has refuted the allegations against him with, uh, shall we say, DARVO-esque vibes.

For now, Deck Nine workers say that they managed to push management to remove the Nazi references in the upcoming game, but expressed frustration that it took so much pressure to get management to act on concerns. As part of the response from management, Deck Nine will now be developing an anti-hate speech policy—which I, for one, think every company should already have as standard, not something to be added in 2024, especially when your company works on a series that has, successfully or not, tackled big issues like queer identity, migrant rights, racism, and disability.

You can read the full report from Rebekah Valentine on IGN.

In other news…

If you’ve got a spare $450, you can preorder the newest person-sized Pokémon plush, Slowpoke, who joins the “lifesize” 31-inch Psyduck. Someone please get me both so I can squash myself between the two for the rest of eternity.

In other plush-related news, the Unpacking merch is out! I wish I could afford every single chicken plush (it doesn’t feel right getting just one or two) but there’s also cute stationery, meta posters, and other plush toys available in the collection.

If Lego is more your thing, there are two new Animal Crossing sets coming in August, including a town hall set featuring KK Slider, and the Dodo Airlines jetty which comes with Wilbur and Tangy.

Humble Bundle’s “Down on the Farm” bundle collects seven farming sims, including The Witch of Fern Island, Cattails: Wildwood Story, and Immortal Life for a minimum of £15.94. The bundle is available until May 10, 2024.

The teams behind Cities: Skylines 2 have apologised for the state of the game on release, which players have reported performs poorly on everything but the most high-powered PCs. Developer Colossal Order and publisher Paradox Interactive issued a joint statement promising a refund for gamers who bought the title’s Beach Properties DLC and pledging free patches to improve performance before working on more paid DLC.

The world of cosy games isn’t always that cosy, illustrated this month by the grim news that Singularity 6, developer of life sim Palia, laid off 35% of its staff shortly after the game entered early access. The news comes on the tails of many similar stories, where games companies wait to hit milestones like releasing a title or new DLC before abruptly laying off swathes of workers.

Upcoming puzzle game Lorelei and the Laser Eyes is set to be released on May 16, for Nintendo Switch and PC. I am personally very excited for this absurd game, which tasks you with solving puzzles in an atmospheric manor as a character with laser eyes. Watch the latest trailer below.

Cat Quest 3: Pirates of the Purribean will be released for PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, and PC on August 8. The latest in the RPG series will task you with sailing the seas to find treasure as, you guessed it, a cat. Watch the announcement trailer below.

Two new The Sims 4 kits came out this month: the “Party Essentials” kit featuring neon lights, disco balls, and invisible dancefloor, and the “Urban Homage” kit, made in collaboration with creator Ebonix and featuring gorgeous new Create-A-Sim items inspired by ’90s and ’00s London fashion trends.

Horror fishing game Dredge is being adapted into a live-action film, produced by Story Kitchen. There’s not much info about the movie yet, but Story Kitchen’s co-founder Dmitri M. Johnson also produced the Sonic the Hedgehog live-action adaptation.

A sequel to co-op adventure Never Alone has been announced by publisher Humble Games and studio E-line Media. Never Alone 2 will also focus on co-operative gameplay and, like the first game, be developed with a full Alaska Native team of storytellers and elders. You can watch the announcement trailer below.

There were several cosy-looking games announced at this year’s Nintendo Indie World Showcase, including frog adventure Valley Peaks (extremely on-brand for Sidequest) and cat chaos simulator Little Kitty, Big City. I’m also very excited for stitch., a puzzle game based around knitting patterns. The full stream is available to watch below, with time-stamped sections for each game.