Game Dev Torrents Its Way To More Sales, Not Less

from the torrent-of-sales dept

Piracy is bad, full stop. That's the message repeated far too often by far too many in the content industries. Nothing as complicated as how copyright infringement impacts a content maker could be that simple, of course. Instead, piracy effects different content makers and companies in different ways. And, as we've seen in the past, when rightsholders actually try to connect with pirates and make good use of piracy, they often encounter beneficial results. When this occurs, detractors typically begin claiming all sorts of reasons for why those cases are unique: it only works for big companies that can absorb the sales losses, it only works for small companies that aren't generating much in sales anyway, it only works for some genres of video games and not others, etc.

This reasoning is pointless. The fact is that smart use of the internet and piracy have too many success stories at this point to be written off in this way. And those success stories keep slamming into the stonewall shouts that piracy is always bad, such as a recent example where an indie developer put his own game up torrent sites, only to find a significant boost in sales as a result.

Game developer Shota Bobokhidze, aka ‘ShotX,’ falls in the latter category. The indie developer from Tiblisi, Georgia, runs his one-man company ShotX Studio which just released a new shooter game titled ‘Danger Gazers.’

The release is available on Steam where it currently sells at $9.99. While that’s not an extremely steep price, ShotX realizes the average game fan may not have the financial means to try out all the new titles that come out every month.

This prompted the developer to release a special edition targeting the pirate community.

He put the game up on the Pirate Bay, telling folks that it was a DRM free version of Danger Gazers, no strings attached. It was the full version of the game, and he simply asked anyone that might download and play it to consider paying for it later via a legitimate purchase or a donation. ShotX went on to post a link to the Pirate Bay on Reddit with the same messaging: just buy it if you like it. And this wasn't supposed to be some pre-planned gimmick, either.

ShotX says that this certainly wasn’t a planned PR campaign. He just wanted to get the word out and give the free torrent a chance. That said, he does believe that piracy can have a positive exposure impact, which was also the case here.

“It wouldn’t have been effective if it was a planned PR move to get people to buy the product. It was just a kind act that I was lucky enough to get noticed. I’m sure it would have been apparent if it wasn’t so,” he says.

ShotX’s approach worked well. The Reddit post promoting the official torrent reached a broad audience. This resulted in a lot of free downloads but also motivated people to buy the game and spread the word.

“The response so far was amazing,” ShotX says. While he didn’t expect anything in return, the free release actually resulted in a significant revenue boost.

And isn't boosting revenue the entire point? How can piracy be always bad, full stop, if the end result in some cases is increased revenue for a content creator? That doesn't make any sense.

Instead, this is yet another example that highlights how content creators can act human and connect with people out there, even those that might download their games for free. Through that connection, even those downloading the game, evil beings as they are, managed to send more money the developers way. Be human, awesome, and make use of the internet, folks.

Filed Under: copyright, indie developers, piracy, promotion, shota bobkhidze, torrents
Companies: shotx studio


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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Jan 2020 @ 8:18pm

    Piracy is theft. Theft is bad. Except mayb e in San Francisco, that is. There, theft is OK, no arrest, no nothing. Shitting on the streets is OK too. Tim Cook Country.

    So yeah, in the alternate universe that inspired the rodent infested black plague ridden public toilet that is San Francisco, people want to connect with pirates.

    The rest of us don't. Lock pirates up. Thiefs and people who shit on the street, too.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Jan 2020 @ 8:26pm

      Re:

      Congratulations! You successfully shitposted without bothering to read the article! Show him what he's won, Bob!

      .
      .
      .

      Nothing. Crawl back under your rock.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 14 Jan 2020 @ 8:29pm

        Re: Re:

        Please point out what part I did not read, or retract your stupid statement.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 14 Jan 2020 @ 8:58pm

          Let’s start with this specific line…

          How can piracy be always bad, full stop, if the end result in some cases is increased revenue for a content creator?

          …and then circle back to the fact that the “piracy” in this situation was officially, explicitly condoned by the game’s creator.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 15 Jan 2020 @ 2:08am

            Re:

            Promoted piracy is not piracy.

            If a grocery store owner puts bread out on the street with the sign "free", and people take it, it is not shoplifting.

            No "free" sign, then it's a crime. Bread, intellectual property, anything.

            That's obvious to 99% of the world. The 1% that want to be pirates steal in every area of their lives. They are disingenuous, suspicious, nasty, logic twisting perveted assholes that the rest of us look at with disgust.

            Pirates. Put them in prison and let them play with each other.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              Strawb (profile), 15 Jan 2020 @ 2:20am

              Re: Re:

              The 1% that want to be pirates steal in every area of their lives. They are disingenuous, suspicious, nasty, logic twisting perveted assholes that the rest of us look at with disgust.

              And they spend more money on media than normies.
              Being a pirate doesn't always mean being a pirate for everything, every time.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              PaulT (profile), 15 Jan 2020 @ 2:27am

              Re: Re:

              "That's obvious to 99% of the world. The 1% that want to be pirates steal in every area of their lives."

              I wonder. If the rate of piracy is so low, why are you so obsessed with destroying the value of products for paying customers and the rights of everybody else, on the off-chance that you might stop some piracy. At those low figures, surely it's better to do what everyone here suggests - accept that a small amount of loss is inevitable and build your business to factor that in?

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              MathFox, 15 Jan 2020 @ 2:37am

              Completely agree that a torrent distribution by the game developer is not piracy.
              Also agree that some people do pirate despite having the means to buy.

              But there is a much larger group that does not have access to works of culture (others would say copyrighted content) for many reasons regular Techdirt readers know well. [*] They have to resort to illegal channels to obtain (DRM-free versions of) the works they want to study. That large group is a potential market for commercial services.

              [*] Not enough money to buy; too many pay channels with "Exclusives"; geographic restrictions; DRM that blocks use; orphan works; publishers creating artificial scarcity.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
                identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 15 Jan 2020 @ 3:04am

                Re:

                Did you learn that in school?

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • identicon
                  Rocky, 15 Jan 2020 @ 3:13am

                  Re: Re:

                  Some people can actually draw logical conclusions from provided information, and it seems you are not one of them.

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                  • identicon
                    MathFox, 15 Jan 2020 @ 3:31am

                    Those people are called "independent thinkers". Didn't learn independent thinking at school, but our education system does not have the goal to eradicate independent thinking either.

                    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              Stephen T. Stone (profile), 15 Jan 2020 @ 3:12am

              Pirates. Put them in prison and let them play with each other.

              I’d be careful with this line of thinking. You never know how many times you might violate copyright yourself in a given day without even knowing it.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 16 Jan 2020 @ 6:04am

              Re: Re:

              "If a grocery store owner puts bread out on the street with the sign "free", and people take it, it is not shoplifting."

              And if the presumptive "pirate" walks right past, goes home, and then bakes identical loaves of bread at home it still isn't theft.

              Do you have anything which actually IS analogous to what you're trying to say?

              Copying information is not theft. Copying information in your ownership even less so. THAT is what is obvious to 99% of the world.

              If you were correct, Bobmail - or should i call you Jhon or Blue? - "piracy" could not exist. But you're not. You are simply the equivalent of a westboro baptist church member who believes that because you've got a congregation of similar asshats surrounding you waving placards your views are shared by the rest of the world.

              "The 1% that want to be pirates steal in every area of their lives. They are disingenuous, suspicious, nasty, logic twisting perveted assholes that the rest of us look at with disgust."

              Bravo. Except that if that were true I think those of us who are pirates and not shy about admitting that would have noticed.

              You're just that sad little religious fanatic frothing at the mouth while shouting about blasphemy and sin who everyone tries not to look at too closely. Nothing much has changed over the last five years except that piracy, rather than being the hip thing to do has now settled down to being a utility norm.

              I'm sure that kills you inside, Baghdad bob.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Bruce C., 15 Jan 2020 @ 4:41am

            Re:

            In which case, it isn't piracy, it's authorized copying.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 14 Jan 2020 @ 10:06pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          All of it bro. You’re welcome.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    R2_v2.0 (profile), 14 Jan 2020 @ 8:31pm

    Old man shouts into void

    This is no doubt unpersuasive to the 'Pirates=Bad' crew but as demonstrated here it can be the gateway drug.
    As a kid I spent any money I could get on games but pirated far more than I bought - pre-internet so all via (often multiple) disks.

    Illegal? Yes. Lost sales? Zero.

    Fast forward to now and I've bought almost every game I ever pirated - many multiple times. I'm also a games junky spending far more on games than any sane adult should and with my biggest problem now being my enormous and growing backlog of 'Bought but not Played' games.

    I don't pirate now because I don't need to.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Jan 2020 @ 8:35pm

      Re: Old man shouts into void

      Now you do what? Repair transmissions for retired old ladies and rip them off with fees you don't deserve? Peddle used cars to young teens with credit terms they can't bankrupt their way out of? Lie in public promoting phony ideas in return for cash payments?

      Leopards do not often change their spots. I don't expect you to admit it, of course, someone as plainly false, pretentious and convenient to the article messaging is no doubt a shill.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Toom1275 (profile), 14 Jan 2020 @ 10:02pm

        Re: Re: Old man shouts into void

        Too bad not even the Void cares for your demented projections.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 14 Jan 2020 @ 10:08pm

        Re: Re: Old man shouts into void

        “someone as plainly false, pretentious”

        You’re projecting like a champ there bro.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 15 Jan 2020 @ 8:36am

        Re: Re: Old man shouts into void

        "Leopards do not often change their spots. I don't expect you to admit it, of course, someone as plainly false, pretentious and convenient to the article messaging is no doubt a shill."

        Speaking of shills, did you already switch back out of your "Hamilton" suit just so you could go from spewing White supremacy propaganda to spewing your usual "pirate bad" diatribe again, Baghdad bob? I must say, that was one of the faster venting sessions you've done so far. Well done.

        That said you are still wrong. Copying data is not theft, not comparable to theft, and courtrooms everywhere have been quite clear about that.

        Feel free to continue in your religious belief that normal users making ordinary use of their property and exchanging information between one another is a blasphemous sin but I'm afraid the real reason that you're being opposed on this is simply that most sane people choose not to subscribe to your religious beliefs.

        As for shilling...the only side in this conflict which has money floating around to hire shills - and has been caught paying for astroturfing in the past - would be your church, Baghdad bob.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Samuel Abram (profile), 15 Jan 2020 @ 4:27am

      Re: Old man shouts into void

      That was exactly how I discovered Chrono Trigger: By illegally downloading the ROM. I liked it so much that I bought it legitimately thereafter whenever it was repackaged (Though I stopped after the Nintendo DS version because I considered that version to be the most "complete" version).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 14 Jan 2020 @ 8:46pm

    Imagine that...

    Offering people a free and easy way to check out a game they might otherwise not have bothered with or even known about was enough to convince a non-zero number of them to pay for it. It's almost as though being able to try something before paying is a good way to increase sales, I wonder if any other industries have ever tried that...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Jan 2020 @ 8:58pm

      Re: Imagine that...

      Some companies like this strategy. Some don't. If you willfully take property, intellectual or otherwise, that is not yours, you should be punished.

      We are not barbarians. We will not cut off your hands. But you will establish a life-long, permanent record, as a thief.

      Criminals. Don't be one.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Stephen T. Stone (profile), 14 Jan 2020 @ 9:00pm

        Please explain how copyright infringement is the same thing as theft, despite even the Supreme Court of the United States explicitly saying that copyright infringement isn’t theft.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 14 Jan 2020 @ 9:03pm

          Re:

          Please explain how blah blah blah is not blah blah blah (fill in theft, abuse of power, impeachment, obstruction, on and on). Please explaiin. Fucking leftists.

          I'll explain. Go fuck yourself. Use your common sense. Even patent law recognizes the concept of common sense.

          Is it yours? no. OK. Does it belong to someone else? Yes. So it's not yours, you have no title to it, and someone else does. And you took it, without permission.

          It's theft, idiot. Common sense.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Stephen T. Stone (profile), 14 Jan 2020 @ 9:09pm

            I’m happy to see you acknowledge your ignorance. Your further contributions will be read accordingly.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
              identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 14 Jan 2020 @ 9:14pm

              Re:

              Isn't it wonderful to see the whole rise up against totalitarian legalistic assholes like you? Did you see Hong Kong, and Taiwan, and Iran? They love Trump! They love America! They love Freedom!

              Your contributions are always read for what they are - legalistic simplistic self-gratifying nonsense, little more than public masturbation by a very limp gay dick with no asshole but his own to play with.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 14 Jan 2020 @ 9:27pm

            Re: Re:

            Is it yours? no. OK. Does it belong to someone else? Yes. So it's not yours, you have no title to it, and someone else does. And you took it, without permission.

            It wasn't taken, because the "someone else" still has theirs. It was copied. Now both parties have it. Was it illegal? Yes.

            It's theft, idiot. Common sense.

            The SCOTUS disagrees with you. Are they idiots too?

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 15 Jan 2020 @ 8:42am

              Re: Re: Re:

              "Was it illegal? Yes."

              Actually no. It's "unlawful" since it's in the civil code rather than the penal one. This usually kills Baghdad bob/Blue/Jhon off to no end since it eliminates that tender dream of his of watching pirates get hauled off in chains...

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 15 Jan 2020 @ 6:11pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re:

                It's "unlawful" since it's in the civil code rather than the penal one.

                If I'm going to correct someone on the usage of "copy" vs. "steal," I should be sure to use accurate terminology myself.

                Thanks for the correction. :)

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • icon
                  Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 16 Jan 2020 @ 1:55am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  "Thanks for the correction. :)"

                  You're welcome. :)

                  The real problem with debating astroturfing goatfuckers like old Blue/Jhon/Bobmail is that at the end of the day they try to conflate so many issues in one go it gets hard to take back ALL the dictionary definitions.

                  The difference of "Illegal" vs "Unlawful" is one of those key notes where the copyright cult has tried to control the narrative - which is why they keep screaming crime, crime about a matter which falls solidly into civil law. They've tried this for 30+ years, during which time they've tried to link copyright infringement to terrorism, CP, drug dealing, tax evasion and sex trafficking. About the only word that stuck was "pirate".

                  But a pirate, no matter how much copyright infringement he performs, is not a criminal. This is exactly the sort of thing old Baghdad bob and his hypothetical paymasters try so desperately to make people forget.

                  The unlawful act of copyright infringement is less serious than the actual crime of jaywalking. Millions of dollars have been spent in astroturfing and propaganda to deny this fact.

                  So i often get nitpicky about not allowing the narrative to slide that way. :)

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 15 Jan 2020 @ 8:41am

            Re: Re:

            "Please explain how blah blah blah is not blah blah blah (fill in theft, abuse of power, impeachment, obstruction, on and on). Please explaiin. Fucking leftists."

            So the Supreme Court Of The United States is a bunch of fucking leftists according to you. Enlightening.

            "It's theft, idiot. Common sense."

            Making a copy of data in my ownership and possession...theft? No. That's not common sense. That's a religious faith-based dictum, like stating that printing a bible is a sin.

            And it shows when the only argument you've got is to holler broken logic and manifest falsehood incoherently.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 15 Jan 2020 @ 8:38am

        Re: Re: Imagine that...

        "If you willfully take property, intellectual or otherwise, that is not yours, you should be punished."

        Good thing that copying information still isn't "taking" anything.

        As usual your argument that cooking your own meals is stealing from a restaurant is...slightly amusing but sort of stale by now.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 15 Jan 2020 @ 5:20pm

          Re: Re: Re: Imagine that...

          Taking intellectual property... so, if i break into the US Copyright Office and change the registrations to point to me, then i'm taking IP, sort of.

          Or i could just be one of your average publishers.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 16 Jan 2020 @ 1:58am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Imagine that...

            "Taking intellectual property... so, if i break into the US Copyright Office and change the registrations to point to me, then i'm taking IP, sort of."

            Yup, that's about the only way to "steal" intellectual property that I can imagine.

            Of course, to the 15th-century church or the copyright cult of today then re-printing the bible is a sin, and making a copy of data you own is theft, respectively.

            It's a religious argument, and there just isn't much use arguing seriously with a religious nutjob fanatic. Just point out to all and sundry how they're wrong and move on.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      tom a sparks (profile), 14 Jan 2020 @ 11:52pm

      Re: Imagine that...

      Isn't this what shareware did back in the day?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Samuel Abram (profile), 15 Jan 2020 @ 4:24am

        Re: Re: Imagine that...

        Shareware gave us Doom.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 15 Jan 2020 @ 6:24am

          Re: Re: Re: Imagine that...

          ...then Doom gave us the mod scene, which led directly to Counterstrike, Portal, PUBG and DOTA 2, to name a few, not to mention hundreds of developers who went on to create within the industry. The short-sightedness of people who ignore these kinds of things goes way beyond whether or not someone could have paid for a copy of the original product.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Bruce C., 15 Jan 2020 @ 4:43am

        Re: Re: Imagine that...

        Shareware was usually crippled in some way, but there were examples of the full application/game being released.

        Congratulations, Shotx, you've just reinvented shareware.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dave, 14 Jan 2020 @ 9:37pm

    This is a perfect example of the TechDirt brand "CwF+RtB" philosophy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    Pario Coaching Tools (profile), 14 Jan 2020 @ 10:42pm

    online-leadership-course

    The Leadership Course starts with an initial questionnaire, profiling work preferences. Modules are then delivered automatically at specified intervals. #executivecoaching #onlineleadership#online-leadership-course Email us: support@pario360.com Website: http://www.pariocoachingtools.com/

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Jan 2020 @ 10:49pm

    I prefer the free software ecosystem at the moment (mostly). I am thinking of getting a new license for MSOffice for the grammar checker but LibreOffice works really well.

    Some unlawful cyber activity destroyed a bunch of my old stuff and caused a lot of other damages and catastrophic injuries.

    Sad times

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 14 Jan 2020 @ 11:10pm

    O M G Becki!
    He treated potential customers as something more than cash machines.
    There are tons of games out there & next to no demos of anything anymore. While getting $10 out of every idiot who wants to see if the game is any good... getting $10 out of everyone who played the game, enjoyed it, enjoyed not being treated as a cash cow to be milked is much better. Willing to bet some of the copies sold were never installed & played, they just wanted to reward him for treating consumers better than AAA companies.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jan 2020 @ 4:54am

    that s how spotify works .you can use it free ,if you like a certain singer or a pop group, you can buy the albums or support them by going to a concert,buy merch etc
    most people cannot keep up with all the new games on steam,
    anything that gets the word out and gets attention for your game is good news.
    Many small indie games disappear on steam, unless they have a good pr
    ad budget .this may be a good option for a small indie game,
    give it away on a torrent website.
    it gets free pr and goodwill from gamers on reddit .

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jan 2020 @ 7:21am

    Hamilton hasn't gotten over the arrest of Paul Hansmeier, I see.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 15 Jan 2020 @ 8:45am

      Re:

      "Hamilton hasn't gotten over the arrest of Paul Hansmeier, I see."

      Blue/Jhon/Bobmail only turns into Hamilton when he's forgotten to take his meds. It's a bit of a Hyde (anti-pirate)/Hyde(Racist) scenario.

      Alas no medication strong enough to bring out a Jekyll from him, from what I've seen.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 15 Jan 2020 @ 7:15pm

        Re: Re:

        Alas no medication strong enough to bring out a Jekyll from him, from what I've seen.

        Sure there is. It's called an overdose.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 16 Jan 2020 @ 3:13am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "Sure there is. It's called an overdose."

          That's a way to turn two Mr. Hydes into a corpse, not a Dr. Jekyll.

          Mind you, I'll grant you a corpse would be far less disruptive to normal social convention than either his Hamilton or Bobmail persona.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Thad (profile), 15 Jan 2020 @ 9:02am

    I'd nitpick the description of this as "piracy". Yes, it's a torrent, and yes, it's on The Pirate Bay, but if the creator gave permission to share the game that way, then I wouldn't call it piracy (unless he doesn't personally own the rights and didn't have the legal authority to grant such permission).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jan 2020 @ 5:29pm

    In the past, we had 'try before you buy' in the form of demos. They need to return. A good demo will do more to sell a game to me than flashy marketing videos or 5 star reviews. Neither of these show what playing the game is actually like.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 17 Jan 2020 @ 6:09am

      Re:

      I personally got at least two bad experiences with demos where the development of the game (plot or mechanics) left me incredibly frustrated I spent money on the title. So I download the full thing, play it and if I like it I buy.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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