Howdy pals, Zainabb here again with this month’s cosy gaming news! I’ve been taking solace in cosy games recently, which so often provide me with a balm during difficult times and heartbreak. I’m currently craving something more structured or narrative-focused than my usual farming or life sims, so tell me your recommendations in the comments. What are your “comfort games?” Do you enjoy horror games for stress relief, or strategy for escapism? Let us know!

Before we dive into the news, here’s your reminder to support Palestinian people. Resources 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.

Fae Farm Developer Phoenix Labs Lays Off 140 Workers

Phoenix Labs, the developer behind life sim Fae Farm, has laid off approximately 140 workers and cancelled most of their projects in a “significant restructure.” Phoenix Labs will now focus solely on Fae Farm and another popular title, Dauntless, a free-to-play action RPG. Cancelled projects include a title that was supposed to be announced this month.

The decision comes after 34 staff members were made redundant in December 2023, and adds to the ongoing mass layoffs within the games industry.

The Sims 4… Seasons?

Two new The Sims 4 Kits have been released, with the Riviera Retreat Kit focused on fancy patio and poolside decor and the Cozy Bistro Kit offering items to construct romantic restaurants and quaint cafes. Both Kits are now available for PC, Mac, PlayStation 5 and 4, Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One.

In other The Sims 4 news, EA has committed to fixing various performance issues and bugs reported by players, which seems wise given the age of the game and the base game’s new-ish status as a free-to-play title.

While this news has been welcome by Sims fans, something players are less keen on are recently-added login rewards, which offer players free items if they boot up the game several times a week. In an official blog post, EA calls this an “Event,” which they describe as “limited time experience[s], centered around a fun theme, with free rewards or gameplay that adds new opportunities to your game.” The blog post mentions Sims 4 “Seasons,” which suggests the title might soon incorporate a Game Pass-style system. This is a pretty standard feature of free-to-play titles but, understandably, fans of the game are apprehensive about possibly being expected to pay for additional items, “quests” or gameplay features alongside the many, many DLC packs that get released each year. And of course, many players don’t have the time or capacity to boot up The Sims 4 multiple times a week just to claim rewards. It seems like EA is testing out the Events system at the moment, so we’ll see how it develops.

In other news…

The Cozy and Family Friendly Games Celebration 2024 is currently running on Steam until June 27. The event highlights popular cosy titles like Dorfromantik and A Little to the Left, and upcoming games available to wishlist like visual novel Tavern Talk. There’s also the opportunity to try out demos of games including gentle builder Tiny Glade and Kiki’s Delivery Service-inspired witch sim Mika and the Witch’s Mountain, which I am personally extremely excited about.

Developer Bad Viking and publisher Iceberg Interactive have announced a sequel to Strange Horticulture, which will focus on running a mysterious antique shop. Strange Antiquities doesn’t have a release date yet but will be a bigger game and the game’s shop will come with a cat.

In Pokémon merch news, the Soda Pop Plush collection is now available to purchase in the US, UK, and Canada. The collection includes roughly six-inch big-head versions of Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Squirtle, and each plush costs US$19.99 or £16.99. The Pokémon Center is also taking preorders for giant beanbags, including a Jigglypuff bean bag chair. Each 30″ chair costs US$299.99 or CA$389.99 and is expected to ship in October 2024. And finally, there’s now a Pokémon-themed ColourPop collection, which includes three colour-changing lip balms, three cream blushes, Eevee-inspired lip glosses, and various eye shadow palettes, with prices ranging from US$9 to US$159 for the whole collection.

Kingdom Hearts will launch on Steam on June 13, 2024. Yes, it’s already on my wishlist because I’ve still never played the series, partly because the “remix” stuff confuses the hell out of me (I am but a simple soul with brain fog, just give me whole, consecutive numbers please). You can already play the series on PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch, but it’s only been available for PC via the Epic Games Store so far.

At PlayStation’s summer State of Play this year, the first gameplay trailer dropped for Infinity Nikki, an “open-world dress-up adventure game” about to enter beta testing. The trailer introduces us to Nikki, a stylist who goes to a magical world with her talking cat companion, to collect new outfits, take photos, and do some light platforming and combat. You can watch the trailer below.

Upcoming life sim, Life By You, has been delayed again by publisher Paradox Interactive, with no new release date. After two earlier delays, the game was supposed to launch early access for PC players on June 4, but Paradox says that “additional development time is needed.” The game has a huge scope so this news comes as no surprise, but seems to indicate Paradox responding to a recent trend at the company of buggy or delayed releases by taking the time to polish a title before promising its release.

The Official Stardew Valley Cookbook is now available, featuring 50 recipes inspired by in-game meals like “Strange Bun” and “Seafoam Pudding.” The cookbook organises its recipes into seasons, encouraging readers to make use of fresh, seasonal ingredients. The book is available for US$28 from Penguin Random House.

Longstanding MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic got cosy with its latest update, which allows players to unlock their own farms and participate in gentle activities like seed collecting, baking, and taking care of animals. The update also features new missions and PvP features but all I care about now is a full Star Wars life sim.

Hiking adventure game, A Highland Song, has received an update that adds new music and stories, and a system that helps players track their routes through the game. A Highland Song (which is very much on my wishlist) is available for PC and Nintendo Switch.