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Epic CEO says it won't ban Fortnite players for taking a stance on human rights (twitter.com)
446 points by Aissen 12 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 107 comments

Why have the League of Legends announcers stopped saying the words "Hong Kong" in phrases such as the team "Honk Kong Attitude", and instead only say HKA?

Does Tencent control the broadcast/streaming?

Tencent owns Riot Games who made LoL.

To be specific, Riot Games sold the full 100% to Tencent. Tencent owns partial shares in a lot of companies; when it comes to Riot Games / League of Legends, that percentage is the full 100.

Thanks for correcting me. I see my mistake now.

Tencent controls 40% of Epic.

Tencent controls 100% of Riot/League of Legends.

Epic has no control over Riot/League of Legends.

Tencent controls 100% of Riot/League of Legends

As Matt Levine observes, an American company can simply ignore its foreign owner if necessary https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2019-02-01/citgo-...

that's a very short-term/literal view of the situation. Obviously any American company at the end of the day can physically do what it wants if it resides in the US, but if you want to have long term access to the Chinese market or capital it becomes significantly more of a strategic issue. Just look at the university conflicts in Australia.

if you want to have long term access to the Chinese market

I think people are starting to cotton on that there is no such thing. The best you can hope is for a few years of getting a local partner familiar with your IP before they boot you out.

Certainly, but the rule of law and trust breaking down has a systemic effect on everyone else.

There are some differences.

Number one, the US has basically declared economic war on Venezuela. The government is preventing anyone from coming to the US to do anything to control Citgo. Notice that the Citgo situation still depended on them declaring bankruptcy and then some mix of legal and political maneuvering to get a new board installed. But Citgo is a huge important energy company, not a video game company, and our relationship with Venezuela is much worse than our relationship with China. Despite the trade war and tough talk I can't imagine that LoL is the hill that the Trump admin would use to escalate things. Matt Levine's point is that the people who control the company are the ones with the keys to the office and if you have the political will you can use law enforcement to give control to the people that you want. But from the perspective of Venezuela/China, it's tantamount to the US seizing control of a foreign corporation and would be a huge escalation.

Number two, Citgo does not care about ongoing access to Venezuela (plus due to sanctions it's not like they have an economic relationship with Venezuela at the moment anyway). Their customers are not in Venezuela, their customers are in America. And they don't need to source oil from Venezuela, oil is a global commodity. Finally, there is a chance of leadership change in Venezuela. So you have scenario one, Maduro keeps control of Venezuela and nothing changes for Citgo (Venezuela now hates them but it doesn't matter because that relationship was already severed) but now Citgo is officially independent. Or scenario two, Guaido gets control and Citgo is embraced by the new leadership that they supported from the beginning.

For Riot, things are totally different. They currently have access to the Chinese market and don't want to lose that access. Sure, maybe they could convince a judge to let them appoint an American board and remove Chinese control, but if that were to happen China would just sever access to the Chinese market.

This is almost off topic, I dont think Epic CEO has much to do with this

It's gotta be the casters trolling. "Hong Kong" as a phrase is regularly said on all Chinese media.

Epic CEO says a lot of stuff he doesn’t mean or live up to.

There's a real risk for just saying something at this point. Thus lip-service like this is itself more than "just lip service".

I'm a total cynic, and do not care about video games or sports, but this does seem like he's taking on a legitimate financial risk in lieu of all the articles bubbling up about the situation

It is telling / sad that just what we might think of as "aw it is just lip service" in the US is in fact a real risk when other countries are involved...

Personally he’s not. Probably has plenty stashed away.

It may put Epic in a spot, but these CEOs will be fine.

Even if that is true, they are at least on the record now with a position and I do feel like that is important. I would hope to see other game companies make these statements as well.

Statements mean and accomplish nothing. I thought after decades of being fucked over and lied to by corporations, maybe the public would become a bit more suspicious of people like this, but I guess not.

Indeed, actions speak louder than words, but in this specific case, making a public statement is itself a very significant action. After all, it was nothing but public statements that are the center of the controversy.

No, the controversy is the punishing of people who dared speak out. Nobody has spoken out for Sweeney to fire or otherwise punish. So his are empty words.

> Statements mean and accomplish nothing.

Yet a statements is what started all this in the video game world. Blitzchung was banned from making a statement. Tim Sweeney did a statement right now, in support to what Blitzchung did. This statement will have repercussion. You may not believe that the content of the statement is truthful, but it doesn't change that Tim Sweeney accepted the repercussion caused by that statement, which is already quite important.

Except he didn’t say anything against China nor did he express support for Hong Kong. He played it extremely safe and didn't say anything to anger the Chinese, but enough to appease the gullible public. Statements aren’t all the same. Just because he says something doesn’t mean it’s on the same level as Blitz who explicitly expressed support for HK. And people need to stop being happy about empty statements.

That is definitely true, but you can applaud a commitment to not do something negative. The thing is you can't ever really say "look they did what they promised" when they are promising not to do something. We just have to applaud the public commitment and then shit on them if they backpedal or don't live up to it really.

How is anyone being 'fucked over' by Tim Sweeney? He is a legendary programmer who built his company up using his own significant programming abilities.

The people who buy games on steam that he then buys exclusivity rights to. The games people help kickstart with the promise of it being on a platform which is then purchased as exclusive. He’s screwing a lot of people.

Shouldn't they be mad at Steam for cutting access to a game they bought? Why aren't they mad at the company that bait and switched them?

It wasn’t cut by steam. It was cut by epic. Steam updated its terms to prevent removal in the future.

To be clear, a game was on Steam, Steam took people's money, Steam let the game be removed from people that bought it, Steam didn't give people their money back, and people blame Epic?

To be clear. The people who bought it on steam got to keep it. But it didn’t change the fact it’s a shitty move on epics part. People on Kickstarter never got what they funded as they paid for steam and the game never arrived to steam because of epic. So so trying to defend epics shitty tactics.

We need competition but not how epic is going about it.

If people got their game on Steam and got to keep it, how did Epic cut it and how did people get screwed over?

For the Kickstarter, did people pay to buy the game and not get it while not being refunded? We're they promised a copy of the game while not receiving it?

If EPIC backtracks on something their CEO said, it wouldn’t be the first time. Tim Sweeney consistently makes a fool of himself and his statements turn out to be completely false pretty often. I wouldn’t take anything he says either seriously or as an actual position of the company.

Can you give an example?

He slammed Microsoft store for being basic and incomplete, then released the epic store basic and incomplete.

He promised transparency on the epic store then made the trello board private after a month, and decided to not be transparent at all.

Can you elaborate?

"Microsoft wants to monopolise games development on PC. We must fight it" by Tim Sweeney in 2016


3 years later ends up buying out indie games and puts them behind exclusivity on the Epic Store

On Linux gaming "The real enemy of Linux are these trolls who try to overrun social media channels to make claims in bad faith and attempt to harass developers into compliance. They’re scaring lots of good game developers away." https://twitter.com/TimSweeneyEpic/status/115052159963387494...

About dev cuts:

In January "This is the only practicable way to operate a 12% fee store in developing countries." https://twitter.com/TimSweeneyEpic/status/109102593910919987...

5 months later: “If Valve commits to a permanent 88% revenue share, we’ll stop making new exclusive deals” https://www.dsogaming.com/news/tim-sweeney-if-valve-commits-...


Tim Sweeney is an interesting person, like a weathervane

This is really disingenuous. You're removing context, cherry picking and inserting your own context to create a false narrative. Why?

It's popular to hate Sweeney and Epic within the gaming community at the moment.

Because they've done a very shitty thing.

Nah, it's 99% handwaving and bandwagoning, like you're doing.

Could you elaborate? I've seen a lot of arguments along those lines, but none were willing to actually explain what it is exactly they're doing that is wrong.

For some reason Valve seems to have a lot of very rabid fans on Reddit, from many many years. Valve gets a free pass for showing annoying ads on every Steam update while being a paid service and also for their forced 30% cut and essentially being a monopoly. All the while barely improving the product for years while making billions from the cash cow.

When I saw Epic was jumping into the fray I figured there'd be vicious backlash and handwringing from the community for minor things and wasn't surprised at all.

You can disable the ads in the steam client by going into Setting > Interface > Uncheck "Notify me about additions or changes to my games, new releases, and upcoming releases."


Valve advertises games on a platform that sells games and only does it when you start Steam. 30% is standard. They're a de-facto monopoly because they basically invented the market and no one has managed to do better, they have not engaged in anti-competitive practices and in fact allow people to sell Steam keys for their game on other storefronts without paying Valve at all.

Valve has gotten lazy and incompetent from their rent seeking on the Steam monopoly. I will try to list some of the reasons.

The service goes down for 15-30 minutes every single Tuesday during peak hours. Can you imagine if your internet, TV, or cellphone did this?

There is also an absurd amount of unplanned downtime as well https://twitter.com/steamstatus there's a major outage every 2 months on average where you cannot even open Steam. The trading system is down A LOT. I don't know of any website like steamstatus that logs it, but it seems like it is down every other week. I also can't seem to trade more than 15 items at a time or the page will just hang, and this system is at least 6 years old already.

Before EA released Origin, there were no refunds on Steam.

I've emailed Valve exploits and they don't respond, not a single reply after years when 10 years ago they would have at least replied maybe 2-3 months later. They took HALF A YEAR to even acknowledge my exploit on hackerone.com and did not even fix it yet.

Their password system is also a huge sign of incompetence. They use RSA encryption on your plaintext password instead of just hashing the password. If someone hacked Valve, they will have your plaintext password. And if you're going to argue that someone can middleman an https server, I'm going to tell you the attacker could just serve up javascript to make the user send the plaintext password.

They also killed 3rd party servers in TF2 by putting them in a button at the bottom of the screen. It is similar to Apple putting all 3rd party apps in a link at the bottom of the app store. They also killed 3rd party servers in CS:GO by banning servers that were giving people default items and then being too lazy to ban servers that gave people items from their online store.

30% is standard? Why is it a standard and why can't it be lowered to 12% if Epic Games can do it? Why does Valve get to use the same standard as brick and mortar retailers when digital stores are way cheaper to maintain and more profitable because of forced online DRM and no reselling?

This is about all I care to ramble off right now, but there's more.

It is time for Valve to get a rude awakening from their comfortable monopoly. The Epic store is a good thing that will result in better service for consumers. And the only price you pay is to install another launcher that costs you nothing.

> And the only price you pay is to install another launcher that costs you nothing

Yeah, no. I'm not going to install another launcher that wastes RAM, bandwidth etc. and begs for my attention. Having games spread across multiple launchers is horrible UX too.

The Steam monopoly is a good thing for customers. What's bad is that it's private property and run for profit rather than to be useful.

> Yeah, no. I'm not going to install another launcher that wastes RAM, bandwidth etc. and begs for my attention. Having games spread across multiple launchers is horrible UX too.

Funny you mention this. Right now on my computer, Steam is using up over 450 mb ram while the Epic game store uses up 10 mb. Both of them being minimized.


> Having games spread across multiple launchers is horrible UX too. The Steam monopoly is a good thing for customers. What's bad is that it's private property and run for profit rather than to be useful.

Yeah and so is having software being spread across multiple OSes "horrible UX" too, so you are basically suggesting that the Windows monopoly is a good thing for customers in that same vein.

We don't live in lala-land where things like this get made as non-profit. The only solution is competition.

It's not as bad as console exclusivity where you have to go out and buy another console for $400.

I'd take the annoyance if I know that the middleman isn't taking 30% of what I am paying the dev and the dev is getting 88%.

Valve is so lazy and incompetent they invented a service to enable internet multiplay of local coop only games.

Epic is doing what? Handing out sacks of cash to buy a catalog? Which is going to end the first mover advantage and make your game buried at the bottom of a big App Store list.

After making Fortnite, a clone of different game, popular with LOL’s business model?

How inventive.

30% to a company doing things for you? Or Epic who is charging you less but building a catalog of competitors for you as well, and backtracking constantly on promises.

Oh and Epic is partially owned by a Chinese company. Since everyone is suddenly patriotic about that shit.

Valve was not the first to invent "internet multiplay of local coop only games), Gamespy predates it by like 6 years.

Valve was not the first to invent digital distribution either https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_distribution_of_video_...

> Epic is doing what?

Reducing the cut from 30% to 12% is huge, offering a world class engine that used to cost millions to license free to anyone to use with 5% royalty is also huge accomplishment.

If Fortnite is a clone of Dayz, then Half-Life is a clone of Quake. Since HL, all the successful games Valve "made" were made by developers they bought out with the exception of Artifact which was a complete flop and Dota Underlords which is also failing.

Are you really going to complain about Fornite's "LOL" business model when Dota 2, CS:GO, and TF2 also uses the "LOL" business model AND has gambling loot boxes on top of that? Yes I would say Fortnite is much more inventive than making clones like Artifact and Underlords that flopped hard.

> 30% to a company doing things for you? Or Epic who is charging you less but building a catalog of competitors for you as well

I am not a publisher, so a bigger catalog will only benefit me.

And if you think Valve doesn't want a large "catalog of competitors" as much as Epic, then I have a bridge to sell you.

China owns less than half of Epic.

On top of this, as I recall everyone hated steam when it came, that you had to have it running to launch Counter-Strike through steam. I know I found it very annoying. Now Steam is home to most people and they are angry over the next change.

Like the guy in the sibling comment defending 30% cut for a digital service like Steam, it is Stockholm syndrome, or just human nature :)

Indeed, I was one of those who hated the idea of Steam when it came out. However they won me over by just not being anywhere near the evil I predicted they would be. In the process, they basically saved PC gaming from almost certain doom, helped create the indie explosion, and made buying games so easy and cheap that many people have not even played a third or more of their library. Then they went and made Linux a viable gaming platform for free. Then they helped create a VR system and opened it to everyone unlike their competitor.

I like Valve too, its a really smart company in a world of stupid, but the Steam client is a really lazy thing, it has not improved much in many years, it is not worth a 30% cut to me.

The 30% pays for the infrastructure, more than the client. Besides, the client has added controller support (even for games that don't support controllers), big picture mode, family sharing, streaming, and just recently online emulation of local co-op.

To put that in perspective: Epic still does not have a shopping cart.

It was and still is very poorly optimized with terrible UI.

Well I dislike them for entering into exclusivity agreements in the first place - something Valve doesn't do.

Even more I dislike them for entering into exclusivity agreements involving kickstarted projects that promised delivery on other platforms. Sure the developers are worse than Epic in this case, because they are the ones breaking the promises but still. It is kind of like sleeping with a married person - sure the person cheating is doing something worse than you, but you are still knowingly enabling it and contributing to something hurtful.

I don't like Valve having a de facto monopoly and buy on GoG where possible or the Humble store, but I prefer a de facto monopoly on selling a product than a de jure one.

Valve needs serious competition. But I hate epic for trying to buy its way into competition by taking exclusives which were sold on steam initially. Instead of trying to actually be better than valve.

Unfortunately there's no competing against monopolies because of the network effect and the chicken and egg problem. A better product won't solve much, exclusives are almost the only option.

There's no way they could have gotten any traction simply by competing on quality of features. Not only does Steam has a decade-long headstart, but people aren't going to willingly split their library over multiple clients unless forced.

Epic couldn't have realistically broken in without forcing people to use their client.

Why exclusives are bad?

> while being a paid service

Steam is not a paid service.

I do think they should lower their 30% cut, though that is the industry standard.

They take a 30% cut of every game and make billions. They are not a free service like, say, Discord is. They should not be showing popup ads.

People are up in arms about Windows 10 showing ads in the Start menu, but somehow Valve showing them in a popup which you have to actually close is okay.

The short version is pretty simple. Epic has been paying developers a whole shit-ton of money for an exclusive release on their storefront and launcher, and a lot of PC gamers do not like exclusive releases or having additional launchers.

That's not such a big deal though, the real problem is that they did this with games that were in development for years with Kickstarter-style backing that had up until that point explicitly targeted other storefronts. To many this seems like a betrayal by the developer and Epic's behavior is making the market worse.

It's a bit more nuanced than that. It seems to me that most PC gamers have no problems with exclusive PC releases as long as they are exclusive to Steam. It's when they are exclusive to other DRM-ed platforms that they start to make a fuss, a self-centered hypocritical view.

Now as a pure GOG game buyer, used to having to wait decades to get games that were released on Steam on release day, I can't say I'm not finding some satisfaction out of all the Epic exclusivity outrage but, feelings aside, I'd prefer that there was no exclusivity whatsoever.

I personally couldn't give two shits about which installer I'd have to use in order to play the game I supported on kickstarter and I don't get why other people care.

If the developer gets more money from Epic, that means that they now have more resources to make a decent game, which actually benefits me as a consumer.

Also, if the game is good, I'd prefer more money to make its way to the developer rather than storefront and Epic has a better deal.

From all above it seems to me that Epic Store is overall doing a good thing and I'd prefer it to Steam if I had a choice.

Have exclusives on their store, or something else?

You could say that he's a troll, attempting to overrun social media channels while making claims in bad faith.

Those last two quotes sound consistent to me. If Valve could operate on a 12% cut without exclusives, that would prove him was wrong that it's impossible, thus he would change his position if they did so.

The Epic store thing would be analogous if Epic made Windows, which they don't - there isn't a contradiction in Sweeney's position here whatever one might think of the merits of the Epic store.

Tencent bought 40% of Epic Games at some point: what's different between Blizzard and Epic's relationship - is it, as the CEO said, he is the controlling shareholder?

As many gamers are saying however, him stating this, because Tencent will profit from their ownership of Epic - they will boycott Epic's games as well.

Well imho "Blizzard" is Blizzard in name only, really it is Activision now. Again, imho, "Blizzard" is only interested in squeezing every last bit of profit it can and will stop at nothing to do so. To be fair, "Blizzard" probably isn't breaking any rules, but it isn't exactly acting with total integrity. A great example is the way "Blizzard" structures its business affairs in the EU so as to avoid paying taxes in the countries it makes revenue in. Bear in mind I say this with despair as a former Blizzard fanboy.

As for Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney, he isn't without controversy but the guy is a billionaire and I'm willing to bet that in his mind, he sees Epic Games as an extension of himself. He must feel strongly enough to take such a public stance at the risk of angering his Chinese shareholders and future business in China.

I'd imagine the ones who are going to boycott Epic games have been doing so already over the launcher/store. I don't see this event adding more to the heap. Personally, I'm not one of these people, but I have refused to buy products for random reasons too so to each their own.

If anything, I'm kind of shocked he's jumping out ahead of an event happening to Epic Games of a player protesting on behalf of Hong Kong and stating what they will do, with Tencent being part of their funding. Either this is to push the "they don't control us" narrative re:Tencent. I don't know how big Fortnite is in China (seems PUBG is the big one there?) and they relatively recently bought the developer behind Rocket League I believe which similarly, don't know how big of a presence they have in China.

Kudos to him whatever the reasoning though. Being willing to draw the ire of a country that, population wise, eclipses your other larger markets because you disagree with their handling of a protest is gutsy on his part. Granted, they're basically printing money with Fortnite so I guess he doesn't have to care too much to keep the lights on, but still, he is not solely driven by capitalism as it would be easy to just stay quiet.

Well... we also don't know what HAS happened already, behind closed doors. Maybe there has already been an "order" from Tencent regarding this case. And maybe Tim already stood up, but couldn't say anything - this would have been the right moment, so maybe he just used it.

May I have "Taiwan" option instead of "Chinese Taipei" for signing up an Epic account? Even Blizzard is not doing this.

FWIW, "Chinese Taipei" is a compromise term accepted by the RoC.

You should ask Tim on Twitter.

Gaining some goodwill for the Epic Store.

Now Valve needs to take the same stance to get back to the status quo.

They won't. Valve has a huge presence in China, Epic doesn't.

Isn't 40% of Epic owned by Tencent?

What're they going to do? Sell their stake?

They will fire the CEO.

The CEO Tim Sweeney has a majority ownership so can outvote Tencent, and the board is in his favour. It won't happen.

If they're structured so that shareholders can do this directly (not a case of needing to be able to influence the board), they'd have to convince 11% of other shareholders to either not vote (if just a majority of yays/nays is needed) or vote with them.

Sweeney on the other hand has allowed Fortnite to become their top item and it generates money other developers only dream of so I highly doubt other shareholders are particularly angry with him (they probably love him quite frankly). He's sufficiently defensive/offensive when things are setup to work against Epic Games (when Microsoft was ambiguous as to how important Windows Store would be to the Windows 10 ecosystem. To the chagrin of vocal gamers, he's aggressively going after Steam which could've frankly crushed Epic Games Store at the onset if not for how aggressive Epic has been).

Honestly, their best course of action would be to cut bait.

Almost no companies have direct elections because CEOs rightfully hate them, shareholders get scared and can make uninformed decisions, and the board is better informed to decide on the behalf of shareholders. In the cases they do exist, stock is issued with different voting rights to prevent activist shareholders turning over a company without the board's approval. Also in this case, even if there was a direct election structure at Epic, there is no other 11% for Tencent to convince. Sweeney himself owns more than 50% of the stock.

Hard to do if the other 60% is happy with him.

With what shareholder majority?

To clarify, shareholders don't vote to fire a CEO, so a majority is only tangentially important. The board votes on these sorts of decisions, however shareholders vote on nominations for board members -that are put forward by a seperate committee. So essentially no one on the board sits there without Sweeney's approval right now (because he holds the majority of shares, and presumably would have voted against people he doesn't approve of). Even if Tencent had a majority right now, unless the nomination committee had previously put forward board members that strongly favoured Tencent, and therefore gave them a good portion of board votes, then it would be effectively useless.

There are technically ways you can make certain seats on the board have a larger weight in voting, but I don't know Epic's specifics and am going to assume it's pretty standard.

"There are some that call me Tim."


Is that the same company that recently was in the news due to brutal workloads and work hours?

They're a videogame company, so probably.

Yes but that is orthogonal to this

What game company isn't requiring brutal workloads and hours? It's pretty par for the course for game developers. They're also underpaid compared to developers that aren't working in games.

Most videogame companies are like that. It is definitely horrible, but the company's attitude toward its employees' work hours is unrelated to its attitude toward China.

Unless you take the view that human rights are human rights are human rights, and are universal. Being shitty to the humans you pay while paying lip service to some of the humans that pay you is an interesting and, from some angles, contradictory position to hold.

Human rights are universal, but one involves literal concentration camps while the other is people who are voluntarily there, even if it is abusive. I think that Epic Games should change their policies, and so should the rest of the game development industry, but I prioritize disliking fascism over disliking poor working conditions.

Can you explain the relevance to the topic of discussion?

Talk is cheap when you’re not in a position where you have to prove you mean it. Just look at any number of comments here who seem to be praising Sweeney. I wish I was a CEO, seems to be an easy job when all you have to do is say the right words and people blindly eat it all up and believe you.

His company has virtually zero market share in China too.

His company is China's inroad to the Western games distribution industry. China is totally cool with Epic allowing anti-China statements as long as it brings the users into China arms.

excusatio non petita accusatio manifesta.

Ah, it would seem that Epic has a nose for marketing opportunities especially today when "values" / "we are good folk" marketing is all the rage

Pretty unfair comment.

He was asked. He answered.

He answered the question by linking a Verge hit-piece against Blizzards' actions, citing Epic's opinion on the matter.

It might be an answer, but it's definitely motivated.

Epic is owned ~45% by Tencent. So I doubt this is going to be true.

There are several tweets specifically on this in the twitter thread:

Tim Sweeney @TimSweeneyEpic 4h

Replying to @CherrishChoerry @calibrono and 3 others

> Epic is a US company and I’m the controlling shareholder. Tencent is an approximately 40% shareholder, and there are many other shareholders including employees and investors.

Cherrish Choerry @CherrishChoerry 4h

Replying to @TimSweeneyEpic @calibrono and 3 others

> 40% is a big cut though. They’re already apparently pulling out of the NBA League. Can you honestly say if a similar event happened you wouldn’t have to, sever ties with said influential figure, i.e the NBA coach/Hearthstone Champ

Tim Sweeney @TimSweeneyEpic

Replying to @CherrishChoerry @calibrono and 3 others

> Yes, absolutely. That will never happen on my watch as the founder, CEO, and controlling shareholder.

7:55 AM - 9 Oct 2019

So we’re just blindly believing whatever CEOs say now? There are so many incentives for them to say whatever the public wants to hear that it doesn’t make sense to take any of it at face value.

He also now has a strong incentive to stick to what he said. Complying with China after publicly saying he wouldn't would be an even bigger PR disaster than what Blizzard is facing right now.

Of course the CEO would deny that it's a problem. He isn't necessarily being honest.

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