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PlayStation Vita's biggest challenge: Convincing developers
PlayStation Vita's biggest challenge: Convincing developers Exclusive
September 28, 2012 | By Christian Nutt

September 28, 2012 | By Christian Nutt
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    52 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing, Exclusive



PlayStation Vita isn't exactly the success story that Sony would like it to be. Sales of the handheld are lagging worldwide, and many third party game makers aren't willing to invest in a platform that has a modest install base. Add a prohibitive $300-$350 price tag, and you have the ingredients for a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Sony Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida admitted he's disappointed by the lack of third party support for the handheld, but he told Gamasutra he's ready to show developers that the Vita is the right hardware for making games.

When asked if he believes that third parties are missing out on an opportunity by not supporting the PlayStation Vita, Yoshida answered, "I totally believe so."

"PS Vita is the best hardware to bring a very immersive game experience onto portable," he said.

Developer apprehension

Of course, being one of PlayStation's top executives, his opinion is just slightly biased. But he openly admitted that developer apprehension towards the Vita was unexpected. "One thing that was surprising and disappointing to us was the [lower] number of third parties to come out [in support] after launch.

"...In retrospect, there are so many options for publishers now that we cannot take it for granted that our new platform would be supported by third parties, like [it would've been] many years ago."

Sony, then, was somehow caught with its pants down, and though Yoshida said the company went on extensive developer outreach prior to Vita's release, it apparently wasn't able to get publishers to commit to the platform.

Mobile and social games have also eaten into the Vita's potential, he said. "There are limited resources that third party publishers have, and they have to diversify into new areas constantly; that's a challenge to get the support that we want.

"We've been working harder with our third party relations department to secure more content for PS Vita," he said. "...We are confident that we have the right hardware platform that we have with PS Vita."

Despite that confidence in the hardware, he said the Vita still hasn't quite found its footing in the marketplace.

Defining Vita

Yoshida said Vita will become an attractive platform "when we are able to define what PS Vita is." He said Sony needs to show third parties what Vita players buy, and what kind of games work best on the platform. At that point, Sony will be able to entice more developers to support the handheld.

"As we can expand our install base and articulate what works really well on the platform as compared to others, it will get easier for us to be able get support from third parties," he added.

And while Worldwide Studios, which encompasses all of the company's first party development teams, such as Naughty Dog and Sony Santa Monica, doesn't do direct developer outreach in most cases, he says that it plays an important role in getting third parties interested in the platform.

"We create our content, and that can be used to evangelize some functionalities of the platforms for third party purposes."


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Comments


k s
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To get more developers on board you need to significantly reduce the price to get more people to buy it else the cost of developing for it far out ways the sales revenue.

Joe Wreschnig
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On the other hand Sony needs money *now*, not 1-2 years (or worse) from now when the developers getting those discounted dev kits get their games to market. The revenue from developer programs is never huge compared to getting a chunk of the final retail sales but if you're not seeing money come in from anywhere else, should you really give it up?

"You've got to spend money to make money" is only a good strategy when you haven't been spending money without returns for 5 years already (and using your returns to prop up the rest of a broken company for years before that).

Alan Rimkeit
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Give away Unity to devs like Ninty did with the Wii U. Give the dev kits to devs for a reduced price for a limited amount of time. Make it cheaper for devs to make games for the Vita. This may help with the situation.

Dave Long
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Playstation Mobile is probably helping in this respect, although these titles are likely to often be hamstrung by needing to be playable with touch controls - apparently many of the devs on PS Mobile (which rolls out on PSV in the next few months I think) got on there mainly for PSV, rather than Android. Given this, it sounds like it's more of an issue with the big pubs rather than the indie devs.

Alan Rimkeit
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Sony needs to do more. They are in a bad situtaion with Vita and that needs more effort on their part. What ever they are doing with Playstation Mobile is obviously not enough. This article proves that.

[User Banned]
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Paul Perry
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Well, actually when the iPod was first announced, it was only available for use with the Mac. It as only the second generation of the iPod, and against the will of Steve Jobs (the marketing people were telling him how many more could be sold, but he didn't want his music player connected to Windows) that Windows/PC support came. Granted, in the end, action is what is most important regardless of what the CEO wanted or did not want.

http://www.ipodhistory.com/ipod-first-generation/

Sorry be nit-picking here, as I do agree with you in regards to the limited resources that all developers have. I own one, and have some experience with it. Sony does not seem to have a great vision for the Vita. It is a nice piece of hardware, but the games are limited.

Jeremy Reaban
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Well, when Sony can't (or won't) convince their own developers, why should third parties support it?

Unless they back the Vita with their top IP and their top teams, not simply farming out games to no-name developers.

In about the only case , Media Molecule, rather than a AAA game, their new game Tearaway looks like a PSN download title.

Meanwhile iOS games get better and better looking.

[User Banned]
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Alan Rimkeit
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"The Vita itself is a fundamentally flawed product. "

Please explain your logic in this statement. I see no way that the Vita itself is flawed. It is a great system. It is the price that is flawed.

[User Banned]
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Alan Rimkeit
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@Dan - Again, how is it flawed? It fits in the average hands well and is comfortable to play. It has a super awesome screen. It's graphics are very very good. The controls are superior to pretty much any other hand held gaming device I have seen yet. Dual real analog controls rule. The touch screen is responsive and accurate.

The back touch pad is accurate as well. They got rid of the optic drive so battery life is longer. Battery life could be longer but then that is always the case with mobile devices. How is it poorly designed? What would you change about it? Only thing I would change is the proprietary memory cards. What a joke. That is the biggest barrier for me personally.

Jeremy Reaban
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And let me add, Sony closed 3 of their studios immediately after shipping Vita titles.

What kind of message does that send?

wes bogdan
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Well i STILL CAN'T play uncharted and what's worse sony bend designed a 75% there n 64 southpaw scheme for resistance and syphon filter back on psp but only shipped uncharted with default.

I own a vita but won't buy games i can't play which are almost every dual analog game though stardust allowed me to set up my own scheme and even disable stupid touch controls.

All sony bend would have to do was drop walking from the face buttons to the right stick leave freelook as the left stick and map face button functions to the d-pad.

So that's no : uncharted,unit 13,resistance,cod,kz or assassin's creed for me because i can't play them and i would've bought them if i could play them.

So sad that the old psp professinal which was copied from n 64 shooters is closer to playable than modern "southpaw" sticks only because the rest of the face is in default mode.

And never switch zoom to the r button in southpaw as it should be on l to keep it with freelook.

If i can't even play gravity rush i certanly won't buy it.

I can play lbp and single analog games or stardust because they were smart enough to allow fully custom controls but games i really want i can't enjoy because on vita southpaw is dead because no one's reaching over the huge screen to press the face buttons and no one thought to simply flip the whole face to complete southpaw.

I hope the stupidly high propritary memory prices drop even before a vita price drop and stores don't even carry the 32gb cards which are the only worthwhile sticks to buy as vita lacks built in storage like go had. Too bad i can't use anm2

wes bogdan
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Card and their vita card to store more games or even just to play psp games or music.

Nicholas Ulring
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I have the Xperia Play. I love it. The lack of support at the moment is disappointing though. I will buy a Playstation Vita if it becomes an Android phone.

Michael K
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+1
every one or two years a newer xperia play (PS Phone) would be way better than a psvita, they share like 90% of the use cases, why two devices, just cause there are two divisions inside sony for the same purpose? I'd also wonder why buying one device for another 10y if it's gonna be outdated after 2?

Tho, I wouldn't demand android for gaming, all the phone features being android would be perfect, but having console quality games (being a bit lower level to squeeze out the last bits of performance) would be perfectly fine for me. I'd wouldn't notice if it runs on android or some native hw mode anyway while playing something.

Rolf Moren
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Its quite simple, Sony needs to fund the games themselves. There is now way you can get into black on the spreadsheet on the Vita platform at the moment. There are too few units sold and the slaes momentum is abysmal. If Sony hand picked 25-30 interesting games and funded them onto the platform they might get some traction on hardware sales when they can point to a list of games and say, this will be available down the line. The problem is that they would probably have to over-fund them since developers can not count on making any money on the game sales and have to get all their profit from sony. It would be pouring money on the problem but it might work.

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Michael K
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I have to agree with Rolf. If not even Sony dares to fund games for their own platforms, why would anyone else do (beside some indie's that die happy 'cause they can use their language of choice).
I want Killzone, I want Gran Turismo, I want at least 3more of those games I'd love to play, then I'll start to consider to buy the PSV. So far, it would be a dust collector no matter what price I'd get it (quite sad, as the HW and OS seems to be really flawless).

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Eric Meyer
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Have a 40GB version of the super slim, pack it with the Wi-Fi version of the Vita and price it between 350-400 dollars, done. The problem with the Vita is that Sony doesn't know how to market it.

Doug Poston
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IMHO: The problem is Sony has made some really expensive products that they can't sell at mass-market prices (without losing tons of money).

If they could sell a PS3/Vita bundle for less than the Wii U, my guess is that they would.

I fear the truth is they produced a product (the PS3) that, even 6 years later, they can't sell at a competitive price. Then they repeated this mistake with the PSVita.

Doug Poston
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Before I come off as anti-Sony I need to state, as a geek, I *love* Sony's hardware. It's fucking hardcore!

Sadly, high-end hardware comes with high-end prices.

Adam Steele
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Sony always abandon their playstation portable systems. You hear big hype about it. They come out with 3-5 decent games. And everything else is just junk. Then a year or two down the road they make a better version and charge even more for the same junk. Plus good luck hooking it to the tv like they promised it could be done. The PSP Vista is just throwing your money away. Buy a used old psp for 50$ and play the 2-5 games that you want. Nothing new worth your time any ways.

Joe Wreschnig
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"Sony always abandon their playstation portable systems."

You mean, all two of them? One that's less than a year old?

Between that and "PSP Vista" this almost sounds like poor astroturfing.

Darcy Nelson
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I think it's four total. PSP, PSP GO, Xperia Play (sort of) and now the Vita. I dunno about the 'abandoning' part, it seems like they're trying to get this to work...

Joe McGinn
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The thing that scares me as a developer is the same thing scares me away from Vita as a consumer: it's a "console lite". If I could play the real Uncharted or other major franchises that would be great. But I get watered-down versions, typically not done by the core team from the main franchise. Which ironically is the same thing plagued the PSP, it was a "PS2 Lite" and the games never quite measured up to what you could play at home.

Lex Allen
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I think that they should eliminate the dev kit entirely because it's expensive for everyone. Create an emulator and let people test on their machines. Then devs could submit their games to someone managing third party games for the vita for testing, or we could even find an individual to make a job out of this! Unfortunately, this isn't a service that a lot of people need yet.

If they really wanted this to take off, I think they could. Right now, they're up a creek without a paddle. The market is just too fragmented.

Esquivel Borja
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More power to PSVITA i hope they will realese more epic titles at the end of the year

Ron Dippold
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Sony's sold 400,000 Vitas in the last three months.

Apple sells almost that many handheld gaming devices every day.

On the positive side, there's a lot less competition!

[User Banned]
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Joe Wreschnig
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@Anthony,

Acknowledging that doesn't explain anything or fix any of the problems with the Vita. It just leads to the question "Why isn't the Vita also a phone?" (And similarly "Why are all of Sony's actual phones terrible-to-mediocre?")

To resort to terrible fruit metaphors for the comparison, it's not apples to apples, but it is apples to fruit baskets. (Hint: Apple's not the one with apples.)

Ron Dippold
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@Anthony,

I think more what I was trying to get at is that when you buy the iPhone you now have your gaming device (even if you didn't buy it for that), so unless you're really hardcore there's not a lot of incentive to buy another expensive one and haul it around with you. Unless it had a lot of absolutely fantastic games that you couldn't live without... which it doesn't.

wes bogdan
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Outside of my southpaw complaint even if i could play uncharted today there's still some irksome design decisions. Like forced touch sure doing a rubbing will take you deeper into the game but chopping brush via touch is a chore and ejects you from the game.

IF JUST PRESS X works better than TOUCH IS A WASTE OF TIME! Sure uncharted was vita's money shot and it's early reason for being but again forcing the player to do things in a chore like manner is poor design.

Player choice should be at the heart of every game though uncharted 1 ,kz 2 and 3 on ps3 FORCE motion
on their players which even though my 3-1 dual trigger is a better designed gamepad than sony,ms or nintendo have made avaible it lacks motion so i had limp grenades in uncharted 1 and was forced to use a ds3 in kz 2 for the motion and then switch back and the wand in kz 3 as the ds3 trick didn't work but the wand did .

I know company's want to show off new toys like motion,touch or a second screen but really make sure players can disable,reassign or just make it play better for themselves.

If wii u,xbox next and ps4 simply doubbled or trippled the chip speeds and memory size but allowed for what my 3-1 dual trigger does in everyone's profile so it can be filled ,frogotten and we could simply get back to gaming that to me would be a true next gen expierence!!

Something important of note : TWIN STICK shooters are dual analog but will not work well in inverted so even if this custom slot existed it should have exemptions for god of war style right stick combat roll or twin stick pixeljunk shooter style. The batman 2 on consoles would be in with the dual analog games that would get modifyed as any 3rd or 1st person game because it has a camera stick.

Player choice is paramount and i'd much rather play on my vita or ds/3ds/psp than graft touch controls to physical gameplay because real analog sticks and buttons are worlds better than am i pinch zooming or single touch which creates lag. If there was a thinpad like a vita that could be linked via bt then an ipad might be more worthwile for gaming but i prefer my real controls and wish the dedicated handhelds well.

Mike Griffin
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Hey Yoshida-san, you should talk to Google over lunch.
Put a dedicated Android OS emulator/channel on the Vita, add that market.
Prosper like a boss.

wes bogdan
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When i say batman 2 i mean lego not arkham city because lb2 does have a camera stick it must be included with the 3rd /1st person games whereas older lego games didn't offer a camera stick so i could play them fine with a regular pad.

In case anyone was confused and saying ac would refer to assassin's creed over arkham city in most people's minds.

Chris Hendricks
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You know, I'm pretty sure you can edit your own posts.

Chris Hendricks
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Never mind... it appears not. My mistake.

A W
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Sony just needs to cut the fat.

Joe Wreschnig
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So, everything but their banking division?

A W
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No... I think they just need to decide on a few products they want to promote as gaming centric like maybe Console, PC, Tablet. Perhaps just leave the whole Handheld area of gaming and go with the space they really want to compete in (phone, tablet, pc, console) and just develop a synergy around that area to make the connectivity they really desire work.

Case in point, my VIAO can connect with my PS3, but there is no point because I can not connect a PS controller to it and stream play a PS3 game or a VC game trough it. I don't even think I can stream DL movies from it. Trailers, but not movies...

Personally I feel like even though the PSVita could be a phone or could be a controller like Wii U device it really wasn't made for either of those things and so trying to upgrade it to be any of those things would just confuse the market and not result in increased usage or sales.

wes bogdan
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November sees plus hit vita so then we'll get free games hopefully that we already don't own,discounts and cloud save uploading.

With the 1gb new limit i hope they plan on increaseing it to 2-5gb for ps3,vita and soon enough ps4 which better have plus day 1.

Darcy Nelson
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I am really SO stoked about the Vita. I've held one, played one, drooled over them since GDC last year... STILL can't bring myself to shell out that much money for a handheld, no matter how awesome it's supposed to be. :(

Of course, I've run all but the newest versions of the GameBoy systems into the ground...

Alan Rimkeit
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I as well. I loved it when I was using it at Fry's. It is just too much money. :( Sony gives me a price cut then I will get one for my daughter and I.

Lyon Medina
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@Darcy

I want a new 3DS Xl just for the new Kirby games, and that for sure will not last long after I get my hands on it.

@Alan (Saying this completely in all seriousness, and no rudeness at all)

I am curious how much they can go down? I mean with the new slim, and with all the new marketing. I am not sure if they can afford a price cut for the VITA. How much would you be willing to pay for it?

Alan Rimkeit
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@Lyon Medina - I would consider getting one at $199.99 USD. Lower would get sales going, but otherwise $249.99 is just too much considering to really use it I would have to get the mem card too. Sony made that a tough one by making them their own cards instead of making them generic.

Lyon Medina
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@Alan

Yeah the memory was the deal breaker for me as well. It’s just where does Sony get these prices for these small memory units. The prices have changed slightly, but that is chances are in correlation to the fact that the handheld doesn’t sell.

"$30 for 4GB, $45 for 8GB, $70 for 16GB, and $120 for 32GB." At launch
(http://www.pcworld.com/article/245022/ps_vita_memory_card_prices_
revealed_far_from_a_deal.html)

Currently for the 99.99 for a 32GB at Gamestop.

(http://www.gamestop.com/ps-vita/accessories/32gb-playstation-vita
-memory-card/98472?affid=9898&cid=ppc_60000002)

Sony needs to reconnect with its audience base and stop chasing the nickles and dimes to go after dollars.

I would still be hesitant at $199, but if they threw in a rebate or a game that was a must have for me. ( A good Harvest Moon game) I would buy it.

Alan Rimkeit
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@Lyon - Yep, too much money for those mem cards. Who ever came up that idea at Sony is a moron.

Lyon Medina
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Agreed.

Lyon Medina
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"As we can expand our install base and articulate what works really well on the platform as compared to others, it will get easier for us to be able get support from third parties,"

Building that relationship should have been done from conception and not post launch. I really want the Vita to succeed, but it is just feels so disconnected. It seems to me from what the Vita is trying to be and what it really is. I used it at C.E.S. (Consumer Electronics Show) this last year, and it was great, but the VITA seemed so underwhelming, and during a trade convention is just bad marketing. Yes people enjoyed it, but I didn't see or feel the wow factor. I talked to people at the show as well and a industry guy from a 3rd party seemed underwhelmed too, and he compared it to 3D marketability. I cannot use this party’s name because they would get in trouble, and I am also not a reporter so take this information with a grain of salt or however you wish. “I don’t think they get us, and I hope they change” This was also more than four months ago so his opinion could have changed by now.

(Side Note :I also saw Journey for the first time there, and that I feel was the highlight of the entire Sony Booth. Those people are seriously so cool.)

There needs to be a rebranding (or re-presentation) if you will of how Sony is presenting itself in the marketplace, and what avenues its follows to make itself relevant again. They have the games, and they have the hardware. Sony just needs to make their products highly sought after again by making them relevant somehow.

wes bogdan
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That seems wierd that the Playstation name+ games you want on a system that's very powerful can't sell....but it also has to do with the custom "stupidly expensive" memory whereas i could have spent less on a 32,64 or even 128gb sd card though the 64-128gb would cost more than sony' 32gb @ the same level 64-128gb you'd be buying 2 vita's...and still no game.

Why'd sony go with atnt the only choice it's not the iphone 1 days and why not put 4g lte in rather than 3g.

The playstation is the reason xbox is here as before sony gaming was in mom's basement but after it was in the living room so i really hope they've learned absurd and insulting comments like "work harder-GET A 2ND JOB?!!!" And custom memory cards don't cut it.

For vita and ps4 to succeed they need more than games they need great reasons those products NEED to exist and as stated sony needs an image makeover because while the walkman was king the ipod/phone/pad are now king.

They should start getting back to what made ps one / ps2 desirable because it wasn't until lbp and a price drop that ps3 had a chance. Though i expect the wii u to perform dismally like the 3ds games already on current boxes and nsmb u aren't enough to make nintendo fans who thrive on metroid,mario and zelda to take notice. I also expect pikmin 3,the new 101 and bayonetta to be out late next year.

Will 2013 be a good year for wii u it depends on what comes from ms and sony and how much those cost.


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