Er, Where’s Scribblenauts Unlimited Then?

By John Walker on November 22nd, 2012 at 10:00 am.

Scribblenauts Unlimited – the fourth game in the magical series – released on PC for the first time this week. Kind of. If you’re a North American, you’ll see the game available on your Steam account, and indeed the Wii-U version in your stores. But if you’re outside of the former colonies, prepare to significantly increase the tax on any tea you might want to sell them, because there’s no sign of it at all.

Warner Bros. are an especially odd publisher. There’s almost never any information about releases or availability on the websites for their games. Take a look at the similarly missing Lego Lord Of The Rings’ site… er, there isn’t one. Just Lego’s page for it, with Warner offering only a generic info page that still says it’s “coming this Fall”. Lego’s own page contains no useful information either. According to GAME, it’s due out tomorrow in the UK, not that you’d know it from Warner. And nor is it listed as forthcoming on Steam.

Scribblenauts Unlimited is even more peculiar – no mention of release dates, no mention of regional delays, no mention of how to buy it. It’s out in the US, and it’s on Steam there. In the UK, a Steam search for it brings you one result – a trailer – that when you try to watch tells you that it’s not available in your region. Search GAME for that one, and there’s not even a recognition that a PC game exists, while the Wii-U version is listed as “TBC-2013″. It’s a launch title for the Wii-U in the States, and with the Nintendo console out here next Friday, it’s clearly not going to be one over here.

There are vague allusions out there that the EU version will have an “early 2013″ release, while the Australian version comes out in a week. And so it’s inevitably due to localisation. A game that contains such a vast number of words – that’s a lot of translating for Europe. But not any translating at all for the UK, which once again raises that frustrating and confusing question about why. When Steam is regioned like the builders of the Berlin Wall couldn’t stop themselves and divided the rest of the continent, and of course brick and mortar shops don’t tend to get up and walk across the channel, what stops at least a digital release of a finished game from being released in what I like to think of as the premier English-speaking country?

Edit: Readers are telling us that the US version has multiple languages, so it’s not that then. And a few people have pointed us toward a NeoGaf thread in which a 5th Cell developer says he can’t explain the delay, but it’s not their choice.

“Nope. It’s due to stuff I can’t talk about until 2013. Scribblenauts and Super Scribblenauts were released NA and EU the same day. Trust me. I want your money. It’s due to things outside of development.”

Good grief, what’s going on?

I’ve asked Warner about the delay, and have been told the rather mysterious, “Details about the European distribution of Scribblenauts Unlimited are coming soon.”

Oddly, I do have a working version of Scribblenauts Unlimited via Steam for review purposes, so I’ll be bringing you my thoughts on what is seeming a very lovely game pretty soon.

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45 Comments »

  1. RedViv says:

    Steam offers a huge number of languages to choose from, if you do get the game. The complete EFIGS, plus Portuguese and Dutch. Voiced and all. So localisation is not it either.
    It’s quite puzzling.

    • SominiTheCommenter says:

      Portuguese? Voiced? SOLD!
      Whenever the bloody thing comes out anyway.

      • ZIGS says:

        Yeah, more like Brazilian Portuguese. I’ll stick with English, thank you very much (slightly off-topic, did you notice how the Angolan people in Black Ops 2 speak Brazilian? Funny stuff)

    • EddieV says:

      ++1!!! Also SOLD!!

    • Suits says:

      Dutch voices too, that’s gonna be awkward :)

  2. MiniMatt says:

    Well until this morning I wouldn’t have thought there were any oceans in the Cotswolds either. Perhaps I was wrong about the internet oceans too and only Warner sees the truth.

  3. FunktionJCB says:

    A developer from 5th Cell posted elsewhere (Neogaf), in reply to a question regarding the delay, that the reason for the European delay wasn’t localization (he even stated the other Scribblenauts games were released simultaneously in both territories), but due to some reasons he couldn’t discuss.

  4. Persus-9 says:

    Not having a version in the local language is no reason not to release the game. It might be reason to stick a big disclaimer that the game is in English only but that is it. If you step outside the English speaking world you’ll find plenty of people who are perfectly willing to read book, watch films or play games in their second language. Since moving to Sweden I’ve found that pretty much everyone here speaks English, half of TV is in English, even children’s animated films are shown in English at the cinema, the English sections of bookshops are huge, many boardgames are sold in English, I could go on. Scribblenauts might not sell as well here without a Swedish version but it would definitely still sell. Just localise the title to Scribblenauts Engelska and nobody would be confused.

    Heck, you could even use the English version to crowd source the localisation. You could offer people a free Swedish edition on release if they were will to put up with being prompted to enter the Swedish word alongside the English one when they played and have it uploaded to a server thus dynamically teaching the game Swedish.

    • Gnoupi says:

      Depends on the country. Sweden is a good example of a country where people are English friendly, and most of people will be able to use multimedia products in English. Poland is another such example.

      However, if you take France as example, you will realize that a lot of people are ignorant of English, and will expect everything to be translated, or even completely dubbed for them. You even have laws frowning upon the use of foreign language, in different sectors (typically, you can’t have a worldwide advertisement shown in France without dubbing, or at the very least subtitles. Even the “catch phrases” from the brands are translated (which gives usually an even stupider effect)).

      So given such context, you have some publishers which refuse to distribute a product which doesn’t have translation, because it would be badly received by the market, according to them. For example, Shank and Deathspank were not available on steam in France, because EA refused that, without translation.

      Though apparently this is not the issue here.

      • Persus-9 says:

        Fair point. It certainly isn’t lost on me that Sweden is unusually English friendly. However, I think the number of English friendly countries easily outnumbers the number of English unfriendly countries since unless things are commonly localised into the native language then the population are unlikely to stay hostile to foreign tongues and English does seem to be most places favourite second language. I can think of some exceptions like I think I heard that in Romania people tend to have Italian as their second language but as a rule it seems to be English. France, Spain, Germany and Italy commonly get translations but I don’t know that anyone else does.

      • aepervius says:

        A lot of people in France above 50 year old (not gamers) are not speaking english well.

        Anybody under 50 years old should have basic good enough, particularly gamers which get console game in *english* and maybe a subtitle in german/french.

      • Lokik says:

        In Finland (and other Nordic countries) only TV shows and movies for kids and some TV commercials are dubbed, which is really nice and useful. Also as it’s such a “small” language, only some games (like the Sims, Heavy Rain or the NHL series) have Finnish translated subtitles.

        I couldn’t imagine having to watch movies or play games in my native language. As an example nobody in here liked the dubbed version of the Simpsons movie (it ain’t a Disney film, why was this option even provided?). Everyone was pretty much disgusted and/or laughing when they saw the commercials for it.

    • InnerPartisan says:

      Sweden. What an utopian paradise that must be.
      Here in Germany, things are unfortunately quite different. Everything is translated, and nothing is shown/broadcast/sold in its original language. This is especially frustrating with films – with Germany’s population being so large, that especially vile cultural crime known as “dubbing” suddenly becomes profitable. So even though I live in a moderately sizable city with several cinemas, it’s practically impossible to watch movies undubbed on release.

      Man, Sweden, how I envy you. On the other hand, our beer is better and much cheaper. Hmm.

      • Persus-9 says:

        Undubbed films are certainly something I’d miss if they weren’t around. I never knew it was so ubiquitous in Germany. Undubbed children’s films at the cinema are wonderful. You can go and what a show like Ice Age 4 and they’ll be hardly any little children in the audience because most of them don’t have the skills in English or reading to want to see it that way.

        How come some many German gamers seem to be so good at English? I can’t remember ever logging only a German multiplayer server and not finding most of the Germans chatting away in English. I’d have thought if English language products were so lacking that English skills would be significantly weaker than they appear to be from the outside.

        • BubuIIC says:

          I’m only guessing here but I’d say that gamers are a bit of a special demographic in that regard. Being around computers and the Internet usually helps a lot with English. Also a lot of the younger people watch TV series in English because we are a year behind the schedule with dubbing. That’s certainly an incentive.

        • InnerPartisan says:

          Well, I’d say that most Germans speak at least a little English, as in “good enough for basic communication”. We’re certainly not as bad as the French in that regard :D
          Anything approaching “fluency” is not so common, however – certainly far less common than in Scandinavia and the Benelux.

          • dE says:

            Do you remember the Douglas Campaign “Come in and find out!”?. :D

            There was a study in germany around 2003 about how well the general public understood Ad-Slogans in english. With hilarious results. I’ll try to re-translate what people actually understood. Anyways, the majority understood the slogan “Come in and find out” as “Enter and find a way out”. Or “Drive Alive” was transformed into “Drive while you’re alive”.
            85% of the studies participants failed with the simplest of slogans like “Be Inspired”. Aaaand there was the now famous but lampshaded case of selling bodybags. Which most people assumed meant “bags with dead bodies in them” instead of “bag with one shoulder strap”.

            And let’s not forget about our accent. Which is actually kinda sexy. Unless it’s by Guido Westerwelle.
            Also slightly on topic of nation and language (and sexy… the brezel of course ;)): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zuDtACzKGRs

      • AmateurScience says:

        Indeed I recently played host to a German friend who popped over primarily to see Skyfall in it’s undubbed form, seems odd that the original voice track + subtitles isn’t available somewhere at least.

        • Kohlrabi says:

          Of course there are the usual sources, if you want to get something that is not erm… readily available. It’s just a shame you have to take that route when all you want to do is watch a movie in its unmangled form.

      • Sentient Waffle says:

        Pop up across the border to watch movies in Denmark then, we hate dubbing and are mostly proficient in English ;)

        Naw, but I also hate that Germany/France etc. are so into dubbing, because when I visit, I can’t watch anything on TV because it sucks with dubbing. Sure I don’t visit to watch TV, but still.

      • BubuIIC says:

        I live in Berlin, and at least it’s easy to see movies in their original language. There are at least 2 big cinemas specialiced in showing just englisch language films. And a lot of smaller ones also show film in their original language.
        Computer games before steam was ubiquitous were a bit of a problem. Either import them from amazon UK or, you know, just download them somewhere. Also boardgames in english are difficult to get, they usually cost at least 1.5 times the price of the localized version. If they are sold at all…

        • InnerPartisan says:

          I live in Düsseldorf, and there is exactly one cinema that regularily shows *some* movies in English – but those tend to be only the most popular blockbusters.
          It’s a shame, really, because there are some really nice arthouse cinemas around the city, but even those show only dubbed versions.

  5. pakoito says:

    So I have to either pirate it or ask an american friend to buy it for me. Good business for them, like, good job losing money.

    • SuffixTreeMonkey says:

      You might not be so lucky in the future. Steam has recently added new features for publishers to restrict cross-region trading and buying. For example, the new XCOM in my region (Central Europe, which has Euro-prices but restrictions like Russia) can only be played in this region, if you buy it here… AND it is not tradeable or giftable in my region.

      I don’t know if the U.S. Scribblenauts have this restriction, and I doubt it. But Steam keeps adding features making it easier to restrict the game trade more and more, and I am afraid we will soon not be able to trade many games across the ocean, if the publisher so desires.

      Just so you know how it is here in Central Europe, the local publisher decided that nobody can buy Skyrim through Steam here (even though the game requires Steam). And since DLCs usually don’t come on DVDs in physical stores (Dawnguard actually did, several months later, but Hearthfire surely won’t), we’re out of luck.

      • pakoito says:

        AFAIK the reason behind russia is because prices there are dirt cheap, same as in some southamerican countries, and there were webpages selling keys and stuff.

        Nos, this game can be bought from US for sure, I checked yesterday, but I’m not sure if I want to risk a warning in my account so I guess my only option is to PIRATE IT.

        EDIT: Sorry to the devs, they are not the ones to blame, but your publisher effed you :(

  6. Miltrivd says:

    I was under the impression they make a single version for the EU area due legal and commercial reasons (tied to localization) so making 2 versions to introduce to EU would be an extra hassle not worth the costs.

  7. terry says:

    Nefarious shadowy figures restricting access to things without reason is definitely the sort of venture I like to support!

  8. MuscleHorse says:

    My Steam feed on Google Reader declared that it was out a few days ago – somewhat disappointing to see that that wasn’t the case for the UK when I went to check. The original DS edition is rather charming.

  9. apocraphyn says:

    “what stops at least a digital release of a finished game from being released in what I like to think of as the premier English-speaking country?”

    Well, no matter your stance on British localisations of games that feature American English, it’d be a particularly useful thing to have in the case of Scribblenauts.

    Multicoloured Space Dinosaur didn’t work? What could the problem be? OH! Okay, apparently I have to type Multicolored Space Dinosaur.” Way to confuse the kids!

    Though if they already have it translated into EFIGSDP, they most likely already have it translated into British English too. How very peculiar. I’d assume it would be something to do with the WiiU’s release, but that’s at the end of the month rather than the beginning of next year. Hmm.

  10. DickSocrates says:

    Some kind of weird deal with Nintendo? Why it would only apply to the UK is a mystery. Though I am intrigued by the game, I can’t say I’d be that annoyed by waiting until 2014. Or never playing it.

    • SooSiaal says:

      Not only the UK, here in The Netherlands a search also only shows the trailer, so I guess it is the same for the rest of Europe.

  11. InnerPartisan says:

    And once again, pirating a game provides the superior consumer experience. Or rather: Enables consumers to have an experience in the first place.

    Oh Publishers, you are so smart, so very, very smart.

  12. FunktionJCB says:

    I see people mentioning the localization to other languages as the cause for the delay, and/or a possible Nintendo interference to delay the PC release in Europe.

    Like I posted above, that is not true.
    A developer from 5th Cell confirmed on Neogaf that the delay was due to “stuff” he can’t talk about, and it surely isn’t coming out this year. There’s further proof that the localization to other languages has nothing to do with the delay, since he even mentioned the previous games were released simultaneously in the US and Europe.
    Check his post here:
    http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showpost.php?p=44548429&postcount=125

    Also, European Wii U owners won’t get it at launch either, unlike the US:
    http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showpost.php?p=44549105&postcount=135

    I was interested in the game (I own all of 5th Cell’s previous DS releases), but now they can keep it. At best, I’ll get it when it’s on sale with a huge discount.
    Gamers should “vote” with their wallets and support companies and developers who treat PC EU gamers fairly, and “punish” those who still treat us like 2nd rate customers, or purely an afterthought.

  13. slpk says:

    It’s available on Steam’s Brazilian Store, under New Releases, for R$49.99 ($23.8184 USD)

  14. Unaco says:

    No mention of Far Cry 3 in here John? Would have been a good time for it… unless you’re doing a whole article on the travesty. It’s reversed from the usual Ocean shenanigans… it comes out in Europe before NA. But still, No Oceans, right?

  15. Love Albatross says:

    I’ve been playing a bit of this on PC. It’s cute and fun, and weirdly relaxing, and the new open world style of play is welcome. However, I’m so far finding it incredibly easy, but I can’t work out if it’s because it’s actually too easy or whether that’s just what happens when you have a massive catalogue of items at your disposal.

    Shame they haven’t gone for some sort of Metroidvania style exploration either, with environmental barriers to overcome using your brain. Would also love to see a dictionary unlock mode where you only get access to words beginning with a few letters, or challenges restricting you to only a single letter.

  16. killuminati says:

    I’d like to have it shown on the Italian Steam catalogue as well, missing here as in the rest of Europe. I will be moving from my house in the next couple of weeks, and I may get it in order to play it before I manage to have a connection again..

    And BTW that’s what happens when the publisher comes from others media market like movies.. well done Warner.. well done..

  17. cybrbeast says:

    Quest for the Wordsmith is a fun game somewhat similar to Scribblenauts and it has a free demo.

    http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2012/06/27/a-spell-of-good-fortune-quest-of-the-wordsmith/

  18. TechnicalBen says:

    NO!
    That’s it. I officially hate every publisher to ever have existed. STOP SCREWING OVER THE DEV TEAMS AND CUSTOMERS!
    I’d buy this game THIS SECOND if I could. You know the only two options this leaves me right now? The only right one is for me not to buy or play the game. How is that a success, making your customers choose between not paying you and not playing, or stealing your content?

  19. Spider Jerusalem says:

    a real shame because the game is quite brilliant.

  20. soralapio says:

    Quick, someone check if you can make Muhammad fight Cthulhu in the game, because that’d explain it.