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FTC to look into "loot boxes"

Mr Person

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<snip>

Senior officials at the Federal Trade Commission, America’s top consumer watchdog, said Tuesday that they will look more closely at loot boxes — the bundles of digital goods offered to players, often for a fee, that contain random assortments of in-game clothing, abilities or other rewards. Asked by Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) to probe the issue at an agency oversight hearing, FTC Chairman Joseph Simons said he would commit to launching a probe. The four other commissioners who testified also indicated their support.

Hassan said she was concerned that loot boxes have become endemic in the gaming industry and that by enticing players to spend ever increasing amounts of money rolling for random loot the practice showed a “close link to gambling.” “Children may be particularly susceptible to engaging with these in-game purchases, which are often considered integral components of video games,” said Hassan. The list of games containing loot boxes has grown in recent months and includes popular titles, such as “Fortnite,” “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” and “FIFA 18.”

[cont.]


https://www.washingtonpost.com/tech...video-game-loot-boxes/?utm_term=.848285f59fee



The trouble is that if you compare loot boxes to proper gambling, you necessarily treat digital video game property as real property. That can have a whole wider range of implications. And to be fair, it is real property to the extent people are willing to pay money for digital items directly.


Interestingly: I used to play one of the very first MUDs ever. I actually recently returned to it. I started when I was a kid....like 14 or something. I kept a binder of things to keep for memory. Mostly printouts of screen scroll, but I also seem to have saved a number of receipts from money orders. Why? Because I sold in-game currency for cash. ~60 cents per platinum kronar. This came handy in late high school and college when I wanted extra weed/booze money, especially since I'd amassed a small fortune by that time. (I suppose lucky for me, I didn't sell enough to have to pay income tax, at least within any given year. )

(These days, the rate appears to be ~35-40 bucks per 10,000 plat. Talk about inflation).


More recently, there was DIII with the real money auction house. In a very real sense, non-physical non-intellectual property functions like tangible personal property.


Loot boxes are a sort of flip-side of that with an element of risk thrown in. They're said to "enhance" the gaming experience, but how is that any different in a fundamental sense than saying the in-game coins I sold enhanced the buyers' experience, or that buying a super-fancy BIS weapon in DIII enhanced the buyer's experience? (I bring up 'enhance' because that's the distinction drawn by the industry later in the article. I can only quote so much under fair use)

The only real difference is the risk, which makes it more akin to gambling than merely selling a digital good directly. And I find it quite strange that their line is specifically that the boxes "have no real world value". That's a direct quote.
 
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ecofarm

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In game purchases are the only way for developers to update or expand a game. It's not gambling because there's no real reward and most games players don't technically own their accounts.
 

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Jesus Christ....can't ****ing politicians just leave well enough alone? There is absolutely no need to stick their noses into this.
 

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Of all the things the FTC could be doing to protect consumers, probing 'digital loot boxes' should be at the bottom of the list.
 

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In game purchases are the only way for developers to update or expand a game. It's not gambling because there's no real reward and most games players don't technically own their accounts.

Well, hold on. How do we quantify what is and is not a reward? Or their focus, how do we quantify what has real world value except by measuring its dollar worth, as determined by the market?

I don't know that having a physical existence determines whether something has real world value or is a real reward. What about art? What about one of the famed "invisible paintings" (aka blank canvas). Sure, the canvas is physical. It's there. What makes it rewarding but that some individuals look at it and have "sophisticated" thoughts about the meaning of .....whatever a blank canvas is supposed to mean. And what makes it have value but the fact that someone is willing to pay actual money for it? (Of course, we could get even more esoteric and ask whether money has real world value: floating currency is a house of cards)

I'm not sure how I come down on this, especially since they haven't acted yet. But I can't agree with the has-no-value or not-real-reward.



Take actual gambling. You pay money and someone makes a ball roll around a wheel. Your only potential rewards are adrenaline and getting money. Well, in many games you can also trade items in exchange for real money, whether through the program or a third party site. That's just one step removed. So if money is the real reward, something like this ought at least be considered to have real value in some circumstances. And if adrenaline is what makes it have a real reward, well, people certainly have an adrenaline rush when they finally get the item they want.

Perhaps this suggests a distinction: if loot box items can be traded between players and thus sold for actual cash, then loot boxes resemble gambling. But if the items cannot be re-traded, then they do not have real world value because they net no tangible benefit (and I'm here assuming that tangible includes monetary value, since it does with normal gambling)
 

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Well, hold on. How do we quantify what is and is not a reward? Or their focus, how do we quantify what has real world value except by measuring its dollar worth, as determined by the market?

I don't know that having a physical existence determines whether something has real world value or is a real reward. What about art? What about one of the famed "invisible paintings" (aka blank canvas). Sure, the canvas is physical. It's there. What makes it rewarding but that some individuals look at it and have "sophisticated" thoughts about the meaning of .....whatever a blank canvas is supposed to mean. And what makes it have value but the fact that someone is willing to pay actual money for it? (Of course, we could get even more esoteric and ask whether money has real world value: floating currency is a house of cards)

I'm not sure how I come down on this, especially since they haven't acted yet. But I can't agree with the has-no-value or not-real-reward.



Take actual gambling. You pay money and someone makes a ball roll around a wheel. Your only potential rewards are adrenaline and getting money. Well, in many games you can also trade items in exchange for real money, whether through the program or a third party site. That's just one step removed. So if money is the real reward, something like this ought at least be considered to have real value in some circumstances. And if adrenaline is what makes it have a real reward, well, people certainly have an adrenaline rush when they finally get the item they want.

Perhaps this suggests a distinction: if loot box items can be traded between players and thus sold for actual cash, then loot boxes resemble gambling. But if the items cannot be re-traded, then they do not have real world value because they net no tangible benefit (and I'm here assuming that tangible includes monetary value, since it does with normal gambling)

By this rationale, all mmorpgs that cost money to play are gambling.
 

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to expound...Diablo 2. What was a zod rune worth, or ber? In real dollars? 20-30 bucks? Or, by paying to play it online...you COULD get one from the soul forge.


Gambling?
 

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By this rationale, all mmorpgs that cost money to play are gambling.

to expound...Diablo 2. What was a zod rune worth, or ber? In real dollars? 20-30 bucks? Or, by paying to play it online...you COULD get one from the soul forge.


Gambling?



I'd say that's another step removed though. With a loot box, you are paying for one roll of the digital dice, just like a spin of the roulette wheel.



Even if you paid an entry fee for a casino, you wouldn't be said to gamble by merely entering. You're gambling when you sit down for one specific game and make your bet(s) on that round.

So, with an MMORPG, I'd say that paying your monthly fee just to get in isn't the gambling, but if you are allowed to pay X dollars for a Y% chance at a certain item, per chance, that's a lot closer to the roulette wheel.
 

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<snip>

Senior officials at the Federal Trade Commission, America’s top consumer watchdog, said Tuesday that they will look more closely at loot boxes — the bundles of digital goods offered to players, often for a fee, that contain random assortments of in-game clothing, abilities or other rewards. Asked by Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) to probe the issue at an agency oversight hearing, FTC Chairman Joseph Simons said he would commit to launching a probe. The four other commissioners who testified also indicated their support.

Hassan said she was concerned that loot boxes have become endemic in the gaming industry and that by enticing players to spend ever increasing amounts of money rolling for random loot the practice showed a “close link to gambling.” “Children may be particularly susceptible to engaging with these in-game purchases, which are often considered integral components of video games,” said Hassan. The list of games containing loot boxes has grown in recent months and includes popular titles, such as “Fortnite,” “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” and “FIFA 18.”

[cont.]


https://www.washingtonpost.com/tech...video-game-loot-boxes/?utm_term=.848285f59fee



The trouble is that if you compare loot boxes to proper gambling, you necessarily treat digital video game property as real property. That can have a whole wider range of implications. And to be fair, it is real property to the extent people are willing to pay money for digital items directly.


Interestingly: I used to play one of the very first MUDs ever. I actually recently returned to it. I started when I was a kid....like 14 or something. I kept a binder of things to keep for memory. Mostly printouts of screen scroll, but I also seem to have saved a number of receipts from money orders. Why? Because I sold in-game currency for cash. ~60 cents per platinum kronar. This came handy in late high school and college when I wanted extra weed/booze money, especially since I'd amassed a small fortune by that time. (I suppose lucky for me, I didn't sell enough to have to pay income tax, at least within any given year. )

(These days, the rate appears to be ~35-40 bucks per 10,000 plat. Talk about inflation).


More recently, there was DIII with the real money auction house. In a very real sense, non-physical non-intellectual property functions like tangible personal property.


Loot boxes are a sort of flip-side of that with an element of risk thrown in. They're said to "enhance" the gaming experience, but how is that any different in a fundamental sense than saying the in-game coins I sold enhanced the buyers' experience, or that buying a super-fancy BIS weapon in DIII enhanced the buyer's experience? (I bring up 'enhance' because that's the distinction drawn by the industry later in the article. I can only quote so much under fair use)

The only real difference is the risk, which makes it more akin to gambling than merely selling a digital good directly. And I find it quite strange that their line is specifically that the boxes "have no real world value". That's a direct quote.

That is called a lie, their real world value is by definition exactly what people are willing to pay in real dollars to buy them.
 

ecofarm

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Well, hold on. How do we quantify what is and is not a reward? Or their focus, how do we quantify what has real world value except by measuring its dollar worth, as determined by the market?

I don't know that having a physical existence determines whether something has real world value or is a real reward. What about art? What about one of the famed "invisible paintings" (aka blank canvas). Sure, the canvas is physical. It's there. What makes it rewarding but that some individuals look at it and have "sophisticated" thoughts about the meaning of .....whatever a blank canvas is supposed to mean. And what makes it have value but the fact that someone is willing to pay actual money for it? (Of course, we could get even more esoteric and ask whether money has real world value: floating currency is a house of cards)

I'm not sure how I come down on this, especially since they haven't acted yet. But I can't agree with the has-no-value or not-real-reward.



Take actual gambling. You pay money and someone makes a ball roll around a wheel. Your only potential rewards are adrenaline and getting money. Well, in many games you can also trade items in exchange for real money, whether through the program or a third party site. That's just one step removed. So if money is the real reward, something like this ought at least be considered to have real value in some circumstances. And if adrenaline is what makes it have a real reward, well, people certainly have an adrenaline rush when they finally get the item they want.

Perhaps this suggests a distinction: if loot box items can be traded between players and thus sold for actual cash, then loot boxes resemble gambling. But if the items cannot be re-traded, then they do not have real world value because they net no tangible benefit (and I'm here assuming that tangible includes monetary value, since it does with normal gambling)

No real world value.
 

Mr Person

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No real world value.

Not an argument. Not a rationale. Not an anything.

:shrug:




If you don't want to argue it at length, fine, but we both know that you know that simply announcing an opinion doesn't demonstrate anything other than what your opinion happens to be..... man....
 

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That is called a lie, their real world value is by definition exactly what people are willing to pay in real dollars to buy them.

Yes, by any definition any economist will give you.

However I think the better answer is here:

I'd say that's another step removed though. With a loot box, you are paying for one roll of the digital dice, just like a spin of the roulette wheel.

Even if you paid an entry fee for a casino, you wouldn't be said to gamble by merely entering. You're gambling when you sit down for one specific game and make your bet(s) on that round.

So, with an MMORPG, I'd say that paying your monthly fee just to get in isn't the gambling, but if you are allowed to pay X dollars for a Y% chance at a certain item, per chance, that's a lot closer to the roulette wheel.


IF you pay money (consideration) and there's risk (you don't get what you want or don't get anything) and reward (potential monetary gain), THEN you've fit the definition of gambling to a T.

The question is not about whether reward is monetary gain, but more about whether you actually do gain monetarily. And I think the answer there has to be narrower than I was first thinking because there are many games where you meet the first two criteria but you cannot actually resell the item. It may be "character-bound" or "account-bound" and therefore not tradeable. If that's the case, then all you get is enjoyment since you cannot make a monetary gain on your bet/purchase.

The next question is whether enjoyment alone is a reward that fits the definition of gambling. I doubt it. But I'm not certain. I'm just starting to toy with this idea. However, it really does seem to fit the definition of gambling if you pay for a discrete chance (aka, not a subscription to a game) to win a thing that you can potentially make money from by reselling. If you've gained an asset, you have a real world benefit by definition.




Though I'm still not certain what I think about regulating it or how.
 
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<snip>

Senior officials at the Federal Trade Commission, America’s top consumer watchdog, said Tuesday that
they will look more closely at loot boxes — the bundles of digital goods offered to players, often for a fee, that contain random assortments of in-game clothing, abilities or other rewards. Asked by Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) to probe the issue at an agency oversight hearing, FTC Chairman Joseph Simons said he would commit to launching a probe. The four other commissioners who testified also indicated their support.

Hassan said she was concerned that
loot boxes have become endemic in the gaming industry and that by enticing players to spend ever increasing amounts of money rolling for random loot the practice showed a “close link to gambling.” “Children may be particularly susceptible to engaging with these in-game purchases, which are often considered integral components of video games,” said Hassan. The list of games containing loot boxes has grown in recent months and includes popular titles, such as “Fortnite,” “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” and “FIFA 18.”

[cont.]


https://www.washingtonpost.com/tech...video-game-loot-boxes/?utm_term=.848285f59fee



The trouble is that if you compare loot boxes to proper gambling, you necessarily treat digital video game property as real property. That can have a whole wider range of implications. And to be fair, it is real property to the extent people are willing to pay money for digital items directly.


Interestingly: I used to play one of the very first MUDs ever. I actually recently returned to it. I started when I was a kid....like 14 or something. I kept a binder of things to keep for memory. Mostly printouts of screen scroll, but I also seem to have saved a number of receipts from money orders. Why? Because I sold in-game currency for cash. ~60 cents per platinum kronar. This came handy in late high school and college when I wanted extra weed/booze money, especially since I'd amassed a small fortune by that time. (I suppose lucky for me, I didn't sell enough to have to pay income tax, at least within any given year. )

(These days, the rate appears to be ~35-40 bucks per 10,000 plat. Talk about inflation).


More recently, there was DIII with the real money auction house. In a very real sense, non-physical non-intellectual property functions like tangible personal property.


Loot boxes are a sort of flip-side of that with an element of risk thrown in. They're said to "enhance" the gaming experience, but how is that any different in a fundamental sense than saying the in-game coins I sold enhanced the buyers' experience, or that buying a super-fancy BIS weapon in DIII enhanced the buyer's experience? (I bring up 'enhance' because that's the distinction drawn by the industry later in the article. I can only quote so much under fair use)

The only real difference is the risk, which makes it more akin to gambling than merely selling a digital good directly. And I find it quite strange that their line is specifically that the boxes "have no real world value". That's a direct quote.


Red:
Wow! Gaming sure has changed since I last played a computer game. Back then, Back then, the game provided one with quests and clues to solving them and one ran around fighting all sorts of enemies and won "goodies" -- better weapons/armor or skill points, or new abilities, etc. -- in battle or, occasionally, "stumbled" upon "goodies" Are games no longer like that?
 

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In game purchases are the only way for developers to update or expand a game. It's not gambling because there's no real reward and most games players don't technically own their accounts.

:rofl: I don’t think you have much of a grasp of the current gaming industry
 

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Red:
Wow! Gaming sure has changed since I last played a computer game. Back then, Back then, the game provided one with quests and clues to solving them and one ran around fighting all sorts of enemies and won "goodies" -- better weapons/armor or skill points, or new abilities, etc. -- in battle or, occasionally, "stumbled" upon "goodies" Are games no longer like that?

It really depends on the game.

I played WoW for several years and got bored. At the time, the only real world money stuff they sold were fancy-looking mounts and the like. Purely cosmetic things which, I think, could not be resold. I never bothered.

My father (of all people) convinced me to try Elder Scrolls Online a month or two ago, so I did and am playing around. They seem to have similar things, but there are so-called "loot boxes". I'm not sure what people get in them, but it sounds like it's mainly useful potions and the like, with a small chance for....something.


It really depends on the game. The more free-to-play ones do tend to have more of the loot box thing going on, and other like things. For example, some apparently give you X turns per day, but you can pay more money to get more turns, etc.
 

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It really depends on the game.

I played WoW for several years and got bored. At the time, the only real world money stuff they sold were fancy-looking mounts and the like. Purely cosmetic things which, I think, could not be resold. I never bothered.

My father (of all people) convinced me to try Elder Scrolls Online a month or two ago, so I did and am playing around. They seem to have similar things, but there are so-called "loot boxes". I'm not sure what people get in them, but it sounds like it's mainly useful potions and the like, with a small chance for....something.


It really depends on the game. The more free-to-play ones do tend to have more of the loot box thing going on, and other like things. For example, some apparently give you X turns per day, but you can pay more money to get more turns, etc.

Oh. I've never played online. All my games have only been played stand-alone on a PC or in "LAN-party" setting.

Given my takeaways from my experience with this and another online pseudo-social setting, I'm sure I don't want to have a damn thing to do with online gamers. I'm sure, in such settings, as with here, there are indeed some decent folks with whom I may commiserate, but I'm not so bereft of friends, activities and whatnot that I'd find it worth my while to find them or wait for them to make themselves known to me.

I have played cards online. I can tolerate a game or two of that when I'm pressed for time and don't want to get involved in something that'll take much of it or thought.
 

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It's not gambling because there's no real reward and most games players don't technically own their accounts.

I understand your argument and strictly speaking, legally it may not be considered gambling.

The only issue is that it uses the same manipulative techniques that slot machines use in order to get people to continue spinning the wheel and the problem is, some games do allow you to take the items out of the game and they are worth real money such as CS:GO skins, that are won from loot boxes and then gambled on skin gambling sites which can sometimes reach 10's of thousands of dollars.

Jesus Christ....can't ****ing politicians just leave well enough alone? There is absolutely no need to stick their noses into this.

Here we are talking about game companies using Gambling mechanics and techniques in order to manipulate people into spending more money on what most of the time is useless in game items.

This unregulated practice is exposing children to gambling, the gaming industry is seemingly unable to regulate itself in this regard, unlike what it did with Video Game Violence and so this is what it's come to.
 

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Here we are talking about game companies using Gambling mechanics and techniques in order to manipulate people into spending more money on what most of the time is useless in game items.

This unregulated practice is exposing children to gambling, the gaming industry is seemingly unable to regulate itself in this regard, unlike what it did with Video Game Violence and so this is what it's come to.

It's not gambling. :roll: Game companies always release a list of what is possible to get in each box.

And its a parents responsibility to regulate what their children do. Not to mention their money that's more than likely being used. There is nothing to do on this front.

And what do you mean "unlike what it did with video game violence? Have you SEEN video games lately? They're more violent than they've ever been.
 

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It's not gambling. :roll: Game companies always release a list of what is possible to get in each box.

The vast majority do not release the odds though for what you can get though, here's a list of what you get from a slot machine:

Money

Does that not make it gambling because you know what you're gonna get?

And whether it's gambling in the STRICTEST legal sense is not an argument, it uses the exact same techniques to manipulate people that gambling do.

And its a parents responsibility to regulate what their children do. Not to mention their money that's more than likely being used. There is nothing to do on this front.

And what do you mean "unlike what it did with video game violence? Have you SEEN video games lately? They're more violent than they've ever been.

Parental responsibility absolutely comes into it, especially when I hear stories of thousands being charged to credit cards, won't necessarily disagree with that.

But these absolutely are still gambling mechanic, they are built like slot machines, they use very similar techniques, so that's still not an argument.

And when I'm talking about video game violence, what I mean is back in the 90's when there was controversy surrounding, the threat of government regulation loomed, so the gaming industry set up the ESRB in order to set ratings for games and act as an advisory to parents in regards to video game content.

In this case, there is clear gambling mechanics open and available to children and it's been shown video game companies have hired psychologists in order to make these things more appealing.

This is absolutely a space that probably needs regulation because of how insidious many loot box systems are.
 

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Not an argument. Not a rationale. Not an anything.

:shrug:




If you don't want to argue it at length, fine, but we both know that you know that simply announcing an opinion doesn't demonstrate anything other than what your opinion happens to be..... man....

There's no monetary value to the item. It exists only within a game. The player does not own the character, the game owners do. Accounts are not sold, they're created.

These are the two main obstacles to legislation.

1. Prize has no monetary value.
2. Individual does not own what is purchased.

How can it be gambling if the person doesn't even own the valueless prize?
 

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There's no monetary value to the item. It exists only within a game. The player does not own the character, the game owners do. Accounts are not sold, they're created.

These are the two main obstacles to legislation.

1. Prize has no monetary value.
2. Individual does not own what is purchased.

How can it be gambling if the person doesn't even own the valueless prize?

So that may not make it gambling in the strictest sense of current legislation, but that doesn't make it any less insidious, manipulative, nevermind the fact its freely available to kids.

These are gambling mechanics and systems, out in the open and freely available to children.

Game companies know this and that's exactly what they've developed these things to be.
 

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So that may not make it gambling in the strictest sense of current legislation, but that doesn't make it any less insidious, manipulative, nevermind the fact its freely available to kids.

These are gambling mechanics and systems, out in the open and freely available to children.

Game companies know this and that's exactly what they've developed these things to be.

If kids have their parent's droid or i account and wipe the parents out... let's just say it, social Darwinism.
 

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If kids have their parent's droid or i account and wipe the parents out... let's just say it, social Darwinism.

This is not an argument, I'm sorry but it isn't, it isn't meant to abrogate the responsibility of parents, but plenty of these games give out "Free Samples" and for good reason.

Gambling is regulated for a reason.
 

Jetboogieman

Somewhere in Babylon
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You gotta be blind not to see, how these loot boxes attempt and often succeed at mimicking gambling mechanics, see some examples for yourself:

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ecofarm

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This is not an argument, I'm sorry but it isn't, it isn't meant to abrogate the responsibility of parents, but plenty of these games give out "Free Samples" and for good reason.

Gambling is regulated for a reason.

The "kids blowing money" is a fake argument.
 
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