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Xbox photo
Xbox

Xbox's May update focuses mostly on the PC side of things


Looks like this is rapidly becoming a reality
Apr 22
// Brett Makedonski
At GDC last month, Microsoft's plans for the immediate future largely focused on a unified platform anchored by Windows 10. We even sat in on a platform demo that was dedicated entirely to showing off how all the systems wou...
Deals with Gold photo
Deals with Gold

Xbox Live sale: Learn about other cultures, shoot all other cultures


Mutually exclusive, of course
Apr 21
// Brett Makedonski
Xbox Live's small weekly Deals with Gold sale features an interesting juxtaposition of games this week. One title strives to teach you about an under-represented culture. Most of the rest task you with lining up across from p...
Windows 10 photo
Windows 10

Windows 10 rumored to be released late July, is getting an Xbox avatars app


Upgrade with all the launch bugs, or wait?
Apr 21
// Chris Carter
Windows 10 is nearly upon us, and it may be sooner than we thought -- according to a leak from an AMD earnings call, it will be released in late July. For those of you who own Windows 7 and 8, it will be a free upgrade -...
Harrison leaves Xbox photo
Harrison leaves Xbox

There can be only one Phil at Microsoft, Spencer Highlanders Harrison (probably)


Or maybe he left on his own terms
Apr 17
// Brett Makedonski
Microsoft is down a boss, as Phil Harrison has resigned from his reign as VP of Xbox in Europe. GamesIndustry International has the exclusive confirmation of the departure that's been rumored since GDC. Xbox is fram...
Games with Gold photo
Games with Gold

Last call to get half the free Xbox 360 games this month


Games with Gold moves on tomorrow
Apr 15
// Brett Makedonski
Ah, another public service announcement -- another opportunity for us to remind you to remember your coat and hat when going outside to play, lest you catch a cold. You'd lose your head if it weren't bolted to your neck....
Xbox sale photo
Xbox sale

Don't get too excited about Xbox's spring sale


Not a lot of winners here
Apr 08
// Brett Makedonski
Xbox players may have noticed recently that Microsoft has turned a new leaf when it comes to the quality of sales. Once known for being laughably bad, Microsoft's often very respectable Ultimate Game Sales have gone a long wa...
Smash Bros. photo
Smash Bros.

Xbox boss would like to see Banjo-Kazooie as Smash Bros. DLC


We're crossing a lot of companies and properties here
Apr 03
// Brett Makedonski
Head of Xbox Phil Spencer likes to talk about games. However, that doesn't mean that he restricts himself to only talking about titles that his company's working on. No, he'll discuss anything, even Nintendo properties. When ...

Xbox to indie devs: There's a place for your game on Windows 10, no matter the size

Mar 11 // Brett Makedonski
[embed]288897:57724:0[/embed] According to Charla, that's the program's ultimate goal. "The most important thing to us is to make sure that when someone turns on their Xbox One or their Windows 10 device, they have access to a really broad array of videogames," he said. "The nice thing about that is that for us at ID@Xbox, it creates a really easy, kind of north-star central goal that we align ourselves to every day which is 'Let’s make life really easy for developers.' The easier we make life for developers, the more we reduce friction to get onto our platforms, the more we make Xbox and Windows 10 a great sustainable ecosystem." That's where Windows 10 comes in, at least in the gaming space. If Microsoft wants consumers playing games on any Windows 10 device, it starts with convincing developers to put their titles on those platforms. But, Charla deals solely with indies -- a demographic that's not known for their extensive resources. Would this mean that some independent developers might be averse to the idea of over-extending themselves to too many platforms at once? Charla doesn't think so. He commented "We’re not about trying to put requirements on developers; we’re about providing options for developers. The thing with Windows 10 is that it has a huge, broad reach. That doesn’t mean you have to make your game work on phone on Windows 10, and on PC on Windows 10, and on HoloLens on Windows 10. You should make your games for the platforms, endpoints, or devices that you think it’ll succeed on. We think that including Xbox Live needs to be pretty straight-forward, and for the developers who have done it so far, it’s been pretty straight-forward. And, they’re not the biggest developers in the world, right? We think it enables developers to offer their players an interesting addition to the game." It will make for an interesting option for developers, but it's also Microsoft's vision of the future (at least for now). It's reasonable to assume that Xbox and Microsoft have a vested interest in getting as many developers as possible to philosophically buy into the program. Given that ID@Xbox helps indies publish their games, maybe Xbox will offer extra incentive to developers that release across multiple platforms. It's easy to see a scenario where these studios are offered some sort of preferential treatment, whether it be in the form of extra support or funding. However, Charla denies that this is the case. He insisted that while ID@Xbox is dedicated to decreasing the burden on developers, it's not sweetening the pot for some that are willing to help this new ecosystem thrive. Instead, that assistance is being distributed unilaterally in the form of services such as speeding up the certification process or holding showcases for the games in the program. And, now it's about giving developers options. But, one option that still won't be available is XNA. XNA is a free toolset that's aimed at developing games across several Microsoft platforms. Some notable examples of titles created with it are Dust: An Elysian Tail, Bastion, Fez, and Charlie Murder. There's talk within the development community that it'll make a return, and this new emphasis on unifying games on Windows 10 seems like the perfect time. When asked point-blank if XNA is coming back, Charla responded with a definitive "No." He elaborated "But, I think that when you think about what XNA was for, a lot of that spirit is still at Microsoft in the desire to make sure that anyone can create games for Microsoft devices, whether they’re a 150 team at a major publisher or a teenager who’s just learning how to code. We want to make sure that the Microsoft ecosystem is a place where you can make games and learn. In that spirit, XNA was a solution design for the technology that was available at the time. It was a program that was created to foster the creative spirit. We’ve always said that we want Xbox One – and by extension, Windows 10 – to be a place that isn’t just a place to enjoy great content; it's a place to create great content." Really, that's step one when it comes to creating a platform for games: make sure people want to create there. That's what ID@Xbox is dedicated to doing. Charla wrapped up the interview by saying "But, it’s important to us to support developers and to make their lives easy, and to support the spirit that anyone can make a game." By most accounts, ID@Xbox has been doing that all along. Now, Windows 10 just makes it so developers have a few more options.
Xbox interview photo
'We're about providing options for developers'
Microsoft announced last week at GDC in San Francisco that it was introducing cross-play between Xbox One and Windows 10 devices. That opens a world of possibility in ways for developers to deliver games to their audience. So...

Windows 10 makes it even easier for gameplay videos to go viral

Mar 09 // Brett Makedonski
In our demo, the presenter chose to record footage of Goat Simulator running on Steam. Goat Simulator was selected because "[It] shipped on Steam about this time last year. The developers haven't really touched its base functionality since it shipped. It has no knowledge of Xbox One, or Game DVR and Windows 10. But, Game DVR is a feature of the Windows 10 operating system, and it's available to any game played." After just a bit of nonsense in Goat Simulator (which isn't difficult to accomplish), he recorded the clip and showed how Windows 10 saves it. "No smoke and mirrors, no magic, no special file formats. They're just 1080p .mp4s sitting in my videos folder." From there, users can either use the Xbox app on their computer to select start and end points, or they can use any video editing software to make more nuanced edits. Once the clip's suited to their liking, it can be uploaded anywhere, just like any other video. When we asked whether users will find this feature to be resource intensive for Game DVR to always be recording in the background, Microsoft responded by saying "We're working on what the performance profiles of different hardware configurations are. You're going to have best experiences with modern GPUs, but you're still going to be able to use it if you have an older system. We're going to be very upfront about whether it's on or off by default because of the performance profile of your system." But, limitations of your system aren't the only way to turn Game DVR off if it isn't to your liking. The presenter elaborated "We want to put that flexibility in the user's hands. If they say 'frame-rate is unequivocally the most important thing; I don't care how tricked out my rig is.' If they want to turn it off because that's what they want to optimize for, they're going to be able to." A decent chunk of today's gaming space is occupied by sharing unique gameplay videos on sites like reddit. Some personalities thrive on it; others are just normal players that had something wacky happen to them. Whatever the case may be, Windows 10 will make it easier than ever to get those special moments out in front of a crowd.
Windows 10 photo
'No smoke and mirrors'
The latest generation in gaming has brought with it an emphasis on sharing. Screenshots and gameplay videos can be relatively easily captured and uploaded for anyone's audience to see. It's a smart way to drive interaction --...

Games with Gold photo
Games with Gold

March's Games with Gold are some of the best games


And bonus games in April!
Feb 25
// Brett Makedonski
In the recent past, Xbox Live's Games with Gold program has had mostly the same cadence every month: a standout title, an indie game, and a bit of filler. March breaks that mold with three superb games from 2013. March's Xbo...
Ultimate Game Sale photo
Ultimate Game Sale

Xbox has another Ultimate Game Sale up its sleeve


Deals galore!
Feb 17
// Brett Makedonski
There's a tiny niche audience of consumers that love both buying things and doing it at a discount. Seriously, just the smallest sliver on a Venn diagram. Still, Microsoft's doing its best to cater to that sub-section with an...
The Witcher 2 photo
The Witcher 2

Today is your last day to grab The Witcher 2 and D4 for free


On Xbox platforms
Jan 31
// Chris Carter
Microsoft's Games With Gold promotion actually isn't too bad anymore, but this month's offerings are on their way out. MX vs. ATV Alive is already gone, but you still have time to get The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings on...
Bitcoin photo
Bitcoin

Microsoft now accepts bitcoin for Windows and Xbox purchases


Trendy
Dec 11
// Brett Makedonski
We get it; you're a hip cat. You got some of those bitcoins to your name. You also have a Microsoft account for purchasing content from the Windows and Xbox stores. The latter isn't so much because you're cool; it's because o...
The Game Awards photo
The Game Awards

Xbox isn't revealing anything at The Game Awards 2014


Sometimes no news is news
Dec 02
// Brett Makedonski
There are a few dates every year that we can bank on new videogames being revealed. The first couple days of E3 are the best for this. However, in recent years, the annual December videogames awards show has proven to hold it...
Halo 2 documentary photo
Halo 2 documentary

The Halo 2: Anniversary documentary arrives on October 31


Not so spooky
Oct 27
// Chris Carter
While the Halo: The Master Chief Collection gears up for a November release, 343 Industries and Microsoft have prepared a full documentary explaining the development process for the remastering of Halo 2. Halo 2 is...
Xbox Music photo
Xbox Music

Xbox Music's free trial period has come to an end


A lot of you out there are probably wondering what this is
Oct 24
// Chris Carter
If you've been using the Xbox Music service for a while now, prepare to be disappointed -- the service is ceasing as a free offer as of December 1st, 2014. Previously the music streaming app was available for free with ads, b...
Deals with Gold photo
Deals with Gold

This week's Xbox Live deals take you out to the ballgame and racetrack


Everyone, please focus your attention on Burnout Paradise
Oct 21
// Brett Makedonski
Just in time for the start of the Fall Classic (Go Royals!), Microsoft has slashed prices on Xbox One and Xbox 360 versions of R.B.I. Baseball '14, discounting both down to $9.99. With all that saved money, you could buy a ti...
Rogue Squadron photo
Rogue Squadron

Factor 5's canceled Rogue Squadron compilation sounds incredible


There was also going to be a multiplayer Rogue Squadon
Oct 10
// Jordan Devore
As if we don't have enough canceled Star Wars games to mourn already, here's a couple more. During a recent Nintendo Voice Chat appearance, Factor 5 president Julian Eggebrecht opened up about a Rogue Squadron compilation and...
 photo

Disney Fantasia Music Evolved demo is out


Try it out!
Oct 10
// Dale North
I believe that Harmonix's Disney Fantasia Music Evolved is one of those games you'll have to experience for yourself to really get. You can read our previews and get some idea of how it made us feel, but I really think that t...

Review: Forza Horizon 2

Sep 25 // Brett Zeidler
Forza Horizon 2 (Xbox 360, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: Playground Games (Xbox One) / Sumo Digital (Xbox 360) / Turn 10Publisher: Microsoft StudiosReleased: September 30, 2014MSRP: $59.99 (Xbox One) / $49.99 (Xbox 360) If you're familiar with the first Forza Horizon, you'll feel right at home. The Horizon Festival is taking place again, except this time it's all the way over in southern Europe by way of France and Italy. Your role is, yet again, to become the top Horizon racer by collecting different colored wristbands as you win championships and work your way up the ladder. Your progress is tracked a couple different ways. Obviously an overall level is raised by completing activities, and every level gives you one Wheelspin. The Wheelspin is a slot machine that either gives you a credit payout or a free car. I've gotten some sweet rewards from this thing. Tracking your progress is really easy with a win/loss ratio, but in Horizon it's all about how cool you look while doing all this. Drifting, near misses, getting air, and destroying things in the world can all add to a skill chain if done in a row. After accruing up a certain amount of points, these unlock skill points that can be spent on perks. Everyone loves perks. These are pretty standard, and increase things like bonuses, XP, or unlock certain abilities that make life easier.  There's a couple characters that interact with you over the course of the game; Ben and Ashley. Ben is the guy. He's the type of guy everyone wants to know, party with, and, in Horizon 2, he's that guy everyone wants to drive with. He's the guy leading the Horizon Festival, after all. Be prepared to hear him say "mate" at the end of every single race. I promise it gets funny eventually. Ultimately, he ends up helping the player learn the mechanics of the game, suggesting where they should go next, and even hooks them up with new rides every once in awhile. Ashley is the mechanic that fixes up all those new rides, and that's all she's really present for outside of being a support character. As far as story and character development goes, that's as in-depth as it gets in Horizon 2. That's really all one expects from a racing game, anyway. It's non-intrusive (nor over the top) to -- and provides a good foundation for -- the real focus: racing. Forza Horizon 2 doesn't attempt to shake up the tried-and-true racing formula. The championship event races break down into one of two types: beat everyone to the finish line in one long sprint or in a traditional lap-based race. Instead of structural variety, Horizon instead relies on locale and visual variety to keep players interested. This was totally the right call. Forza Motorsport 5 was already a visual treat, but the heavily modified engine used in Horizon 2 is absolutely breathtaking. All of the 200-something cars are painstakingly detailed (interiors and all) as always, and are convincingly true-to-life. Southern Europe features back country, densely packed urban areas, coast towns, and everything in-between. It's a very, very big world that's incredibly open and just begs to be explored. For the first time, Forza now has a dynamic weather system. Truly, this is the standout visual element in the game. Sunsets and sunrises are amazing, and never look the same as the cloud placement/density changes their appearance every single time. At any moment, thick clouds could fill an entirely blue sky and, suddenly, there's a downpour of rain. Radio personalities will also comment on this when it happens, which is also pretty cool the first few times it happens. This isn't just a visual trick either, as rain will puddle up in the roads, bead up on the cars (and windshields), and create slick conditions. The visual effect on the windshield is particularly jaw-dropping; light will refract off of each individual bead of rain and cause visual interference just as it does in real life. Windshield wipers will automatically clear the windshield, and will leave a line of water wherever their turn radius ends. You have never seen something like this done in a racing game before, and it's something you really need to see for yourself. In motion, everything comes together to create one of the best-looking titles out there right now. Horizon 2 runs in full 1080p at 30 frames per second, never dipping below that. Some may have an issue with a racing game running at 30 FPS, but it's honestly no problem here. Everything runs incredibly smooth and feels perfectly responsive. If I wasn't told it ran at that frame rate, I would've been none-the-wiser. Having a vast, detailed world can still feel empty fairly quickly if there's not a lot to do, and thankfully Horizon 2 does not come up short in activities to partake in. Outside of over 150 championship events, there are Showcase events, barn finds, Bucket List activities, speed traps, and online modes. Showcases have the player up against some type of machinery (not a car) in a head-to-head race. They're easily the craziest out of all the events, and, despite being blatant smoke and mirrors, created some of the most memorable moments in the game. Since there's so few of them, I won't spoil any of the surprise. Definitely be on the lookout for these every few championship events. Barn finds are nothing new, and still task the player with finding an old, rusted-out vehicles in abandoned barns around the map. They're actually pretty difficult to find. I found an army jeep in one of them, which felt particularly silly to bring into a racing event, but things like that fit right in with the rest of Horizon. It's just a fun atmosphere. Bucket List activities are pretty straightforward as well. These also involve finding cars around the map, placed on the side of roads. However, these cars are usually the best in the game and give a taste of what they're like by completing small activities in them (with varying degrees of difficulty). Speed traps are simply just cameras that radar how fast you're going on a particular road. Sometimes I'd try and beat my personal best on these over and over before I realized I spent a good twenty minutes doing this. At any point, two button clicks will take you to the online lobby system. No menu navigating or lobby juggling needed, as it just works within the game and brings you together with strangers or friends in the full game world. You can participate in road trips, championship events, or explore parts of the map together. It's the type of thing where the structured events are certainly fun, but I imagine the community coming up with pick-up games that add to the multiplayer's longevity. The avoidance of too much menu navigation extends into the rest of the game as well. If you have a Kinect hooked up, a digital personal assistant named ANNA can take your commands and make life a whole lot easier. ANNA allows you to just about play the entire game without ever using a menu of your own doing. Say you know you just want to do the next championship event -- you can have ANNA set the GPS navigator to take you to whichever one is nearest. She'll also provide suggestions of things to do occasionally, or you can just outright ask her what it is she thinks you should do next. This system creates a nice flow, and truly enhances the experience. It's the perfect use of the Kinect. I'm all about a stellar soundtrack, and Horizon 2 nails it. There's something to be said about driving a Lamborghini through a super dense field somewhere over 150 mph, barely able to see, with Chvrches is playing in the background. A soundtrack where Chromeo, The Clash, or Thee Oh Sees are just as likely to play as Vilvaldi, Schubert, or Tchaikovsky excites me like nothing else. Playground Games really knows how to make a road trip playlist. With the original Forza Horizon, we were a little disappointed in the frequency and length of the loading screens. Unfortunately, that's still the case here. Again, the loading screens aren't overwhelmingly long, but they appear before and after every single race. All that time adds up to quite a lot. It's understandable that they're there, but I could've done with less of them. If you were a fan of the original or its simulator brother, there's no reason to pass up Horizon 2. It's simulation enough to not lose longtime fans, while easing the realistic driving just enough to allow new players to jump in and not feel like the car physics are working against them the whole time. Every element in Forza Horizon 2 adds up to an exceptional experience. The story isn't over the top so as to get in the way of racing, driving feels as good as it ever did in Forza Motorsport, there's a ton of things to do, and the game looks absolutely beautiful -- especially the long-awaited dynamic weather system. Forza Horizon 2 is a must-have on the Xbox One.
Forza Horizon 2 review photo
Good racing, mate
The original Forza Horizon impressed us back in 2012 with its ability to incorporate what we already loved about Forza Motorsport into an absolutely massive open-world sandbox racing game, while not completely ditching its si...

Deals with Gold photo
Deals with Gold

Xbox discounts Spider-Man, 1001 Spikes, and a lot of Mass Effect DLC


For Gold subscribers only
Sep 23
// Brett Makedonski
As part of this week's Deals with Gold promotion, Microsoft's slashing prices by a third across three Xbox One games. Web-slinging Amazing Spider-Man 2 ($40.19), shadowy noir Contrast ($10.04), and death s...
Xbox TGS lineup photo
Xbox TGS lineup

Microsoft's TGS lineup includes few Japanese games


'Why doesn't Xbox sell in Japan?' asked nobody ever.
Sep 09
// Kyle MacGregor
Microsoft has revealed its Tokyo Game Show lineup, and one has to wonder how much it will resonate the crowd next week at the Makuhari Messe convention center. Japan has never embraced the Xbox brand, largely due to a lack of software designed to appeal to the local market, and a slate of titles like this doesn't figure to bring about a sea change.
Stop. Just. Stop. photo
Stop. Just. Stop.

DDoS attackers now tied to Xbox Live outages


Group claiming responsibility for PSN issues is at it again
Aug 24
// Kyle MacGregor
Xbox Live users are now reporting intermittent sign-in issues, and the group claiming responsibility for today's PlayStation Network attacks and bomb threat is again taking credit. Microsoft seems to be aware of the...
ID@Xbox photo
ID@Xbox

Xbox is shuttling PAX-goers to the Microsoft campus to play indie games


Pre-PAX
Aug 21
// Brett Makedonski
If you're going to be in Seattle next week for PAX Prime, Xbox is giving you the opportunity to get your hands on some games before the convention even begins. Bonus perks are you get to ride in the Sunset Overdrive bus,...
360 HDD photo
360 HDD

Microsoft unveils Xbox 360 500GB Hard Drive


Yep, Xbox 360
Aug 20
// Chris Carter
Microsoft has revealed a new accessory for the Xbox 360 -- the 500GB Hard Drive. Yep, that's 360, not "One," as the prior generation is getting the upgrade here. It'll cost $110 for the privilege, although no release date out...

The Halo Channel is a huge indicator of Microsoft's plans for the franchise

Aug 14 // Brett Makedonski
[embed]279449:55232:0[/embed] Videogames aren't just about playing games anymore. They're about being an inclusive experience through all methods of media consumption. They're a service. That's unabashedly apparent with The Halo Channel. It's an easy prospect for skeptics to guffaw at, but anyone that wants to be immersed in everything Halo would be hard-pressed to find a better place to do it. Microsoft's branding the channel as an "interactive digital network." All of those claims are true. 343 Industries is putting an emphasis on two-way communication -- not only can it deliver its message to you, but you can deliver your message to it and all of your social contacts. After all, conversation helps things grow; it's how a stagnant experience turns into a talking point. Maybe the key to The Halo Channel is the balance of passive and active activities for users. The active ones are obvious, but still somewhat nuanced. Want to simply play Halo? Hop into a game from the network's hub. Watching a match and fancy some multiplayer of your own? The exact game type that you were viewing can be instantly set up, turning you from a spectator to a player in seconds. However, it's the passive aspect of The Halo Channel that will really justify its existence. The channel will boast a video on-demand service along with a continuous rotation of programs. Microsoft's keen on producing a lot of unique video content that strengthens the Halo lore, so there's sure to be no shortage of shows to watch. With the videogame industry putting more and more emphasis on eSports all the time, 343's direction with The Halo Channel might be a good indicator of its approach to the subject with regard to Halo. 343 producer Kiki Wolfkill explained that the studio's "doubling down" on Halo as a spectator sport. Twitch will be integrated to the channel so players can watch matches at any time, and as mentioned previously jump into similar matches at a moment's notice. When asked what 343's future plans for Halo as a competitive eSport are, the team sort of dodged the question, but remarked that Halo 2 would be well-suited for that kind of thing. Whatever happens with all aspects of the franchise in the future, The Halo Channel is 343 and Microsoft's way of ensuring that fans stay invested and interested in the present. It'll be fairly easily accessible, as it's coming to Xbox One and Windows 8 devices soon, with plans to release on Windows phones sometime down the line. It might be an ambitious project for a singular brand, but if there's one in Xbox's arsenal worthy of the honor, it's Halo. And, if it's as simple, streamlined, and packed with content as it looked to be during the presentation, Halo fans won't need to go anywhere else to get their fix.
Halo Channel photo
Games as a service
Xbox's flagship franchise isn't something that Microsoft's going to stray from anytime soon. Why would it? If there was any doubt about Halo's lasting appeal, it was dashed with the E3 reveal of Halo: The Master Chief Collect...

Xbox at gamescom photo
Xbox at gamescom

Xbox has 'big reveals' planned for its trip to gamescom


Starting with Call of Duty multiplayer
Aug 01
// Brett Makedonski
If its word is to be believed, Xbox is going to take advantage of its time at the world's biggest videogame convention. When gamescom hits (and in the days leading up to it), Microsoft will hold a handful of events where rev...
Atari: Game Over photo
Atari: Game Over

Game Over: Stories of E.T. and industry failures uncovered in new trailer


Documentaries are the best
Jul 28
// Brett Makedonski
You ever hear of game developers living like rock stars? That's what Atari was doing back in the '80s when it was on top of the world. Then E.T. happened, and well, it all went wrong very quickly. As part of Xbox's...
Xbox sale photo
Xbox sale

This week's Xbox Deals with Gold sale has Wolfenstein cheap(er)


There sure are a lot of guns this week
Jul 15
// Brett Makedonski
Even though Microsoft just ended its summer's Ultimate Games Sale, it's not content to simply cease offering discounts altogether. Everything with a gun must go, apparently -- leading to some pretty decent prices on both Xbox...
Xbox sale photo
Xbox sale

Xbox sale: BioShock Infinite, Peggle 2, Painkiller


Final day!
Jul 14
// Brett Makedonski
Here we are, the final day of this Xbox 360 sale. It's like last call at the bar, your mind just a little blurry from one too many vodka tonics, and that damn Semisonic song just came on over the speakers. You know you're goi...

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