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Merchants of Rosewall is a cozy shopkeeping sim with a climate crisis twist

An artisan makes pottery in Merchants of Rosewall.
Big Blue Sky Games

Big Blue Sky Games, a new studio of industry veterans, has revealed its debut game, Merchants of Rosewall. The project, set to launch sometime this year, is described as a story-driven, online shop-management game where the climate of its world impacts the availability and cost of resources.

The game has been in development over at Big Blue Sky Games for the past two years. The small studio is comprised of 25 developers total, with 16 dedicated to the game. That talent comes from major publishers like EA, Bungie, and Blizzard. Despite that big-budget pedigree, Merchants of Rosewall is a modest debut that looks to make titles like Stardew Valley even more approachable.

Merchants of Rosewall - Announcement Trailer

The concept is that players run their own shop in a fantasy world devoid of combat. Players hire artisans to staff the shop, source raw materials, craft items like pies, and sell them. The emphasis is specifically on streamlined crafting, as opposed to farming or gathering. Products can be bought by NPCs, but they can also be purchased by other players through an asynchronous online system.

Its most intriguing twist comes from its climate resource feature. The unique system, which was built by a former meteorologist on the team, sees the world’s climate impacting resources. For instance, a banana’s cost might go up depending on how difficult it is to grow due to climate patterns and how hard it is to ship. The deep system is meant to highlight the impact climate issues have on the world. That will intersect with a sharp critique of capitalism that explores the harm it causes to the fantasy world.

A list of crafting recipes appears in Merchants of Rosewall.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

That critical edge isn’t surprising considering Big Blue Sky’s story. The studio was built to be a more sustainable workplace for developers. In a roundtable presentation with press, Kevin Hovdestad, the game’s director, outlined the studio’s vision, which includes full remote work and no crunch. The studio hopes that culture changes like that will make it a healthier place to work amid the gaming industry’s current layoff crisis.

That’s easier to say than to actually do, but Big Blue Sky is putting its money where its mouth is. When I asked about the business decisions that it hopes will lead to a sustainable company, Hovdestad explained that the studio is in a unique financial situation. For one, it is entirely funded by a family rather than venture capitalists. Hovdestad says that those funders understand that the company isn’t intending to turn over a massive profit. Hovdestad says the company is more focused on achieving a four-day work week than it is pulling in tons of money right now.

While that may sound optimistic, Hovdestad emphasizes the importance of retaining workers over “decades, not days.” He cites both Baldur’s Gate 3 and The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom as two success stories that came from consistent teams. Hovdestad also stresses that the company is being very methodical in its hiring process. It doesn’t plan to hire more employees than it needs and intends to stay at a manageable size in the long term.

We won’t have to wait long to see the fruits of that strategy. Merchants of Rosewall is slated for a 2024 release. Players can put it on their Steam wish list now.

Giovanni Colantonio
Giovanni is a writer and video producer focusing on happenings in the video game industry. He has contributed stories to…
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