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A Donkey Kong 3D Platformer Was Apparently In The Works At Activision’s Vicarious Visions


Following earlier reporting by website DK Vine in January this year, a huge new video from DidYouKnowGaming has emerged that expands on claims that Activision-owned studio Vicarious Visions, which had previously worked on the Skylanders franchise and headed up 2020’s Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2, was developing a new Donkey Kong game in partnership with Nintendo.

Reportedly codenamed “Freedom,” the game would’ve followed up 2014’s side-scrolling Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze with a true 3D platformer for the Switch that put an emphasis on movement within an open world island location. Project Freedom would’ve even had a sort of “skating” element with DK cruising around with bananas strapped to his feet and even grinding on vines. It’s said in DK Vine’s story that Nintendo was suitably impressed with the work Vicarious did on introducing Donkey Kong into Skylanders: SuperChargers and saw the opportunity to fill a gap in DK’s catalogue with Retro having moved on to more Metroid-adjacent things.

It would never come to fruition though, with development supposedly scrapped just six months in thanks to a shift in focus from parent company Activision Blizzard toward its Call of Duty games – Vicarious would go on to support future COD titles along with Diablo IV.

These reports also go some way to explain why Karthik and Guha Bala, the brothers that founded the studio in 1991, left in 2016 (right when this project reportedly fell through) to form Velan Studios, which would then wind up working alongside Nintendo with Mario Kart Live: Super Circuit. In 2021, Vicarious was then fully folded into Activision Blizzard to become Blizzard Albany.

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The same reports from DK Vine also claim that development of this new game was moved internally to Nintendo EPD in one form or another, with franchise creator Shigeru Miyamoto apparently pushing for the Donkey Kong franchise to receive more support – perhaps evident in the recent theme park expansions and rumoured standalone film.

Meanwhile, DoYouKnowGaming’s video starts with the admission that all of these rumours seemed too tenuous to be true, but then goes on to reveal that around a dozen actual, ex-Vicarious developers were reached out to and corroborated most of DK Vine’s claims. Interestingly, the video says that it was actually Vicarious who decided to start developing and pitch a new Donkey Kong game and did so in a makeshift “secret room” erected right within its regular office. Miyamoto was apparently right on board, and a relationship was formed, though changes within Activision Blizzard and Vicarious ultimately saw it all fall through.

The full video is quite fascinating and continues to delve deeper into the fate of Vicarious Visions, the changes in culture among ABK’s pivot to its other franchises, the cancellation of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 + 4 and more. You can watch it below: