[Killer Franchises The Vita Needed #1] Donkey Kong

We’re starting a new feature series here at Vita Player, looking at franchises and IPs that are absolutely fantastic, that would have helped the Vita tremendously, and that we wish we had. The first one I chose is right at the very top of the “Wishful Thinking” tree: Donkey Kong. Let’s examine how this iconic mascot could have helped the Vita in its time of need.

A bit of history first, though: it’s easy to think of Donkey Kong as a killer franchise now, but the reality is that the IP was almost dormant for a while since its inception in Nintendo’s early arcade days. It wasn’t until Rare pulled this primate gem out of the Sun Bingo of gaming franchises, with the revolutionary Donkey Kong Country for the SNES, that the friendly giant became a staple of gaming.

Why did the Vita need Donkey Kong?

Simply put, we didn’t have any major first-party sidescrolling platformers. Team Red has Mario, Yoshi, Kirby and Donkey Kong to draw from when they are about to release a game that is easily approachable, as well as being a well-known entity for gamers. Heck, they usually implement some very cool new mechanics in their franchise games that end up making platforming fresh again.

We did get Ubisoft’s excellent Rayman reboots, and they were indeed excellent, but as great as those games were, the truth is that Rayman is not as well-known as Donkey Kong. And really, Ubisoft, as great as they are in making fantastic games, are not as good as creating iconic, family-friendly mascots. Rare went from Donkey Kong Country to eventually making a ton of games for Nintendo, and later Microsoft, platforms. They innovated, both in 2D as well as 3D platformers, and either created or reinvigorated iconic franchises, such as Battletoads, Banjo-Kazooie, Conker, Killer Instinct, Donkey Kong (of course) and more.

Let’s look at the numbers

Obviously, a Vita-bound game was never going to reach Donkey Kong Country‘s incredible units-sold number of 9,300,000, but that’s largely due to the fact that the SNES had an install base of 49 million, while the Vita has sold around 15 million units. That said, the Wii U only sold 13.5 million units, so we can use that as a baseline for our estimates.

Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze sold “only” 1.72 million copies world wide on the Wii U. That may not seem like a lot compared to other entries in the franchise, but that number puts it ahead of the Vita’s #1 seller, Uncharted: Golden Abyss, which has 1.62 million sales. So, can we estimate that a Donkey Kong game on Vita would have sold 1.72 million copies as well? Actually, it would have probably sold more, as the Vita has a much higher attach rate (number of games purchased per every console owner) than the Wii U: every Vita owner purchased, on average, 10 games for the system, while Wii U owners purchased, on average, 7.52 games. That 25% increase on attachment rate puts a Donkey Kong title on the Vita, along with the higher number of overall consoles sold, to an estimated 2.5 million units.  That is a 54% increase in units sold over Uncharted: Golden Abyss. And that is a single game, and taking numbers from the worst-selling major entry in the franchise!

Would a Donkey Kong game on the Vita have changed the fate of the console? It’s hard to tell. But Sony’s handheld desperately needed system-sellers, and we just didn’t get any as big, or as iconic, as Donkey Kong. Join us next time as we explore more franchises that would have helped the Vita, and leave your suggestions in the comments below. We might take you up on it and shout you out! 

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