Mattel has just announced that the popular Two-Bad figure will not be available on MattyCollector for day of sale purchases. This is apparently a last ditch effort to try and get more subscriptions for the 2014 Club Eternia. It remains one of the most interesting tactics that Mattel has tried, but it comes as no surprise to me. Despite the fact that Mattel recently said to me that logistics prevented them from revealing this stuff. If anything, I’m more shocked that it took them this long to announce it. I suspect they thought keeping this secret until now would help drum up some last minute sales. Unfortunately, it has the potential to backfire.

The whole purpose behind limiting day of sales for certain figures, in theory, would be that Mattel makes X amount of each figure and believes that certain figures aren’t popular enough to have any more than the bare minimum that the subscription is required to produce. Naturally, this is not the case for Two-Bad or anyone that Mattel has limited in DOS purchases up to this point.

Thus far, three people have been banned from day of sale purchases. Fang Man was first, and as one of the debut Filmation characters, he was very popular. He made no sense being produced in smaller quantities, but Mattel did it anyway. Next was Clamp Champ, who while lower on the vintage MOTU totem pole, was still a fairly popular character. Now we come to Two-Bad, arguably the most popular fully tooled vintage character left.

Why didn’t Mattel limit the production of Icarus? The figure that’s lining Big Lots shelves across the nation. What about those often unpopular She-Ra characters? Nope. It seems that the only figures that can be produced in smaller quantities are the popular, “fan demanded” toys. Mattel limiting DOS purchases of popular characters is flat out, a strong arm tactic to get people to buy the subscription.

Honestly, I’d argue that it makes MUCH more sense to limit the sales of less popular characters, because it would automatically give them some intrinsic “want” value. By falsely making them rare, they could warrant more demand and at the very least make them more popular for resellers (who apparently buy a large portion of Mattel subs) but instead Mattel is only increasing the resell price of figures that were already going to be popular. This has caused places like BigBadToyStore to charge EVEN MORE for Two-Bad, to help offset the price of the figures they won’t be able to get rid of.

It has a doubly negative effect. If characters like Two-Bad are limited, then cherry pickers will be forced to pay 2-3 times as much on the secondary market for them. But all that does is make them like the line even less and potentially prevent them from buying less popular characters on day of sale. If I have to spend an extra $60 on Two-Bad, then I very well may not buy that POP character from Matty that I had considered when I had the extra cash. It would just make more sense to produce more of Two-Bad so that Mattel could get those extra sales, but alas, this is not the strategy that the house of Barbie has chosen to pursue.

There’s just no logical reason for what Mattel has done, other than to try and pressure people into the subscriptions. Naturally a lot of hardcore MOTUC fans are happy about this, because many of the diehards want the line to go subscription only, seemingly because they think that by weeding out the cherry pickers they will turn everyone into a subscriber. Mattel seems to have a similar mentality. Unfortunately, we all know this is not the case. MOTUC is already on it’s last legs, if not because of sub woes, than just because of character selection.

Trying to force people into subscribing by limiting the popular characters just further weakens the line. It makes the market shrink and as a result, essentially floods the market with less popular figures. It’s like packing one Two-Bad per case at retail. It’s just going to clog the pegs of less popular figures. This is essentially what Mattel has done. The philosophy is backwards and unfortunately misguided.

It’s understandable why Matty has this concept in his bag of tricks, though. Mattel tried this tactic last year and it worked. They promised they wouldn’t make Ram Man if the sub didn’t go through, but claimed they would release several of the other figures, which were considerably less popular. It didn’t make any sense then and it doesn’t make any sense now. Sadly, as awesome as Two-Bad is, he’s no Ram Man. Will this latest stunt work? I have no idea. It’s certainly left me even more conflicted about subscribing.

Are you more likely or less likely to sub now that Two-Bad is essentially an exclusive?

27 Responses to Mattel’s Two-Bad Problem…

  • Wes says:

    I wasn’t going to subscribe no matter what, so it doesn’t affect me at all. However — as you said — it does make me like the line (and Mattel’s marketing with respect to MOTUC) even less… or at least it makes me feel a whole lot better about not supporting it. It looks like the line is going to continue through 2014, but, while these are fun figures (I *love* them for the $10 Big Lots price), MOTUC as a line has been horribly mismanaged and deserves to fail.

    • Newton says:

      I guess I just feel like they could save a ton of money by making less of the unpopular figures and more of the popular ones. Sell extra Two-Bads, sell less Fruit Bees (or whatever those POP characters are) and one would offset the other.

      Instead, they make more of the less popular that won’t sell and less of more popular that would sell big on DOS. It’s just backwards thinking.

      • Wes says:

        Nah, it’s not backwards thinking. They’re doing exactly what they intend to do with these moves, which is give the middle finger to non-subscribers. Everything about the marketing of this line is crafted to annoy and frustrate and infuriate, because hey, loser — if you don’t like the sell-outs and the Digital River shenanigans and the high secondary market prices for certain characters, you should get a sub! That’s how this line is run, and it’s communicated in everything Mattel does and everything ToyGuru says and even in that stupid smirk on Matty Mattel’s face.

        • Newton says:

          Well true, but it’s backwards in the sense that they actually DO need the day of sales. Even TG has slipped and admitted as much several times. They often solicit stuff and specifically expect the DOS to make up the difference. It’s just they hate the DOS uncertainty.

          “We’ll take your money cause we need it, but we don’t want to serve your kind around here!”

  • wesgrogan says:

    Honestly, I gave up on subbing when they went all-in. This, however, definitely does not make me more likely to sub. Instead, it just makes me resigned to the fact that I’m not going to get Two-Bad. It’s sad, but I just refuse to fight in order to own a toy I want, or pay over double retail price. On the other hand, there will be MANY figures in 2014 I don’t want to own and don’t want to have to sell off, especially considering I don’t even know what some of them are. So no.. it doesn’t encourage me at all.

    • Newton says:

      Unfortunately these days, there’s so many figures that you can’t sell off, other than practically giving them away, that even making Two-Bad “exclusive” it’s still probably cheaper to buy him on the secondary market. I know I was terrified that Ram Man might command hundreds of dollars, but he never did.

      Of course, Fisto does go for around $100 and he wasn’t even limited… (although a lot of subscribers didn’t even get him because of Matty bungles, so yeah)

      • wesgrogan says:

        Yeah, I heard it was getting harder to sell them off. Good news for someone like me that wants to cherry pick, and bad news for those that want to cherry pick but got a subscription.

        Mattel could have gone mainstream with this line and really pulled in some serious attention and love from collectors both hardcore and casual, but I really think they painted themselves into a corner with their constantly bowing down to the Orgers and putting out so many characters that someone like me who loved the show in the 80s has never even come close to having heard of.

        It just is sad. Great figures to begin with, but this many years into the line all the guys shouldn’t still all wear the same shirt size, you know?

        • Newton says:

          The Org has definitely been a negative in many aspects. I suspect they’ve done some good as well, but the fringe got too much control of the line.

  • The Blot says:

    Honestly, this is a classic example of why I hate MattyCollector, which sucks because I love the brands they carry. Thank goodness I never started collecting MOTU. Toy Guru just continues to make terrible decisions and blames the fans for their inability to sell subs. Why does the blame never fall on their shoulders? They ask fans to pledge a big chunk of change and they can’t even divulge what characters will be included each year? What a joke. Fans should have raged against this model long, long ago. Just my 2 cents.

    • wesgrogan says:

      Some of us did, believe me. I was very vocal when there was the debate between tiered and all-in subscriptions, and I definitely wasn’t alone. This was exactly the fear that we had back then, beyond just the sheer, massive expenditure that not everyone can justify. I love a lot of the figures, but not enough to go blind-purchasing $200+ worth every year.

  • clark says:

    I made a comment similar to your argument on Matty’s forums when Clamp Champ was announced as not having a DOS. One of the moderators responded with something along the lines that there is no way of knowing which figures are going to be more popular, and therefore just because Clamp Champ is an updated vintage figure does not mean he is in high demand.
    I suggest Mattel emails me the names of the figures they’re going to be producing, along with photos of prototypes, and I will be able to very accurately predict which ones will be in high demand. They can just drop $5000 a month into my account, but I promise I’m better at this than anyone currently working there.

  • Nathan says:

    Maybe Two-Bad wasn’t always been considered a sub-only figure, but when Matty saw that the subscriptions weren’t going to make the goal, they made Two-Bad sub-only to try to pressure people into subscribing. That’s kind of what you’re saying, Newton… but it’s less of a money-grubbing sort of thing and more of an act of desperation. If they don’t pull out all the stops and try to force people to subscribe by making Two-Bad sub-only, the figure isn’t going to made at all.

    That said, I’m not too happy about this because Two-Bad is one of my favorite figures and he would have been enough to pull me back in to buying more MOTUC. But oh well.

    I’m also not too happy about Matty’s recent attitude towards cherry-pickers. I would never be a subscriber because I wouldn’t want to be forced to buy figures I don’t want just to get the few that I do. They don’t even reveal the entire line-up for the year, so you have no idea what you’re getting when you subscribe. The whole thing is utterly ludicrous, and the fact that Matty doesn’t seem to realize that when they criticize cherry-pickers is weird.

  • John K. says:

    I subbed. I was going to sub anyway, so this didn’t affect me in any way.

    Specifically though, I wanted to talk about one thing from your article:
    “The whole purpose behind limiting day of sales for certain figures, in theory, would be that Mattel makes X amount of each figure and believes that certain figures aren’t popular enough to have any more than the bare minimum that the subscription is required to produce. Naturally, this is not the case for Two-Bad or anyone that Mattel has limited in DOS purchases up to this point.”
    There are other factors at play here. As a general question, do people think Mattel can just say to the factory “give me 10,371 Two-Bad figures”? That’s not exactly how it works.
    I’m not sitting here with Mattel’s exact math in front of me – and I’m sure it’s as complicated as hell – but based on the way certain things have transpired with accessories being tooled but not included, they AREN’T making the same number of each figure. However they budget out the cash we commit to them every year, there is still an accountant who tells Scott what he can and can’t do.
    Perceived popularity would seem to be the strongest factor, right? But the truth is that not every figure costs the same amount. Combine that with price breaks Mattel gets on order quantities and there’s an entirely different picture in the end.

    To put it simply, the number of subs they get dictates the minimum number they have to make – but the price breaks they get at certain production levels VARY BY FIGURE. So you wind up with a situation where they only need 6600 Sweet Bee for the sub + return stock, but for the price breaks they get at 7500 figures, they might as well take those extras. Two-Bad in the same situation – they need 6600, and the price break comes in at 12K figures. So, no extras for DOS.
    They have close to a hundred figures sold at this point, with matching sales data that says not to make those additional 6000 figures.
    It amuses me to think people think Scott picks and chooses which figures get no DOS, as if ToyGuru says “we can sell more subs if they think they can’t get Two-Bad!” I’m more inclined to think a college-educated person with no knowledge of what the actual products Mattel sells are other than numbers on a sheet says “You’re only getting this many Two-Bads because math.”

    I recently ran into this production quantity issue on a printing project I’m working on. I needed 80. They said “I can give you 80, but you’re still paying for 250 because that’s how many I need to print to make this work.”
    I don’t bring this up to be that expert jerk defending poor, poor Mattel – but as a guy who is facing production issues himself on a number of fronts.

    • Newton says:

      I understand what you’re getting at and it’s certainly possible that this is the case, but I’m inclined to believe otherwise. If an unpopular character had ever been one of the “No DOS” figures, I think your thoughts would certainly line up a bit better. It just seems too obvious to me that it’s always popular figures that get limited.

      Two-Bad is undoubtedly more costly than some other figures. He’s almost entirely new parts, but I suspect if Two-Bad was an issue and could only be made in limited quantities because of his pricing, they would have known this for quite some time. Unless their price breaks are at triple what they think they could sell, I just can’t see any real reason for limiting a character that reasonably should be expected to sell very well. Probably double if not a little more, than the less popular subscription minimum figures.

      Again, perhaps I view things a bit more jaded, but I also know that this is the company that refused to sell figures and claimed that they were sold out, only to turn around and dump massive amounts of them to places like Big Lots. I’m not suggesting that dumping those figures wasn’t a good idea eventually, but at the same time I’ve seen enough Slimed Peters on the shelves at Big Lots to know that the figure should have never been marked as Sold Out.

      I think the problem is that Mattel has been playing with the numbers from day one. It’s become increasingly harder to gauge anything or to believe anything, when this is the case.

    • _RZ_ says:

      What you ran into in the production of your product was minimum order numbers. You have to make “x “number of pieces in order for the factory to turn on the machines. That is what Matty gets when you subscribe- they take care of that number every august, or else the sub wouldn’t go through.

      They totally pick and choose which get DOS and which don’t. Clamp Champ made me notice the pattern and Two Bad only reinforces it. It’s a really dirty play there. This very site just caught them in a pretty big discrepancy about this just ten days ago! They fall exactly in line with when they have put the subs on sale. Fang Man, Filmation sub drive; Clamp Champ, start of 2014 sub drive; Two Bad, end of 2014 sub drive. They totally think they could sell more subs if they make no DOS of figures that are popular, or available in the months they’re selling the sub. This way you’re scared of missing out on the more popular characters (Who wants to miss out on Two bad, the last of the vintage Evil Warriors A-Listers) and commit to hundreds of dollars of product sight-unseen. Otherwise, Netossa, Karatti, or Castaspella would be no DOS instead, wouldn’t you think? It’s too much of a coincidence to happen three times in a row, and only when subs are for sale, in under a year.

      They even answered a Q&A on this very site saying they could never know which figures had DOS until it was much closer to release. But Two Bad, they know seven months ahead of time, before they even know the sub production numbers?

      I thought this was incredibly insulting to fans, and this, in addition to not revealing what the Sub Exclusive figure looked like, made me not renew this year.

    • clark says:

      So, how does it work out when these are made in a factory owned by Mattel? I guess it’s possible that Mattel out-sources to somebody else, but it seems highly unlikely when Mattel directly owns 4 factories in China. So it also seems unlikely that the factory will tell their bosses that they can’t make 10,371 Two-Bads.

      • John K. says:

        “So it also seems unlikely that the factory will tell their bosses that they can’t make 10,371 Two-Bads.” I don’t work for Mattel, so all I can do is speculate as much as anyone else here on most subjects. But owning the factory doesn’t necessarily mean they have TOTAL control. Inside giant organizations, there are still rules to follow. Scott can’t just tell the factory to do something – there’s probably a guy he tells that tells another guy who tells another guy. The calculations on what gets made and why comes down to pages of information. Scott can have an opinion on quantities he wants made of Two Bad, and ‘logistics’ says no.
        “We could sell another 5000 Two Bad figures!” “That’s not what my spreadsheet says.”
        Does no one else work a job where there’s a convoluted hierarchy of people deciding things? (my background is in the public sector and film prior to the toy business, so it’s been my reality for twenty years)

        And that’s the thing: people THINK they understand things. People see “patterns” that in things that aren’t necessarily related. Right here in the comments and around the net, people see a pattern between Fang Man, Clamp Champ, and Two Bad.
        If it’s just popular figures that get no DOS, why not all of them? Why did Ram Man have DOS? Why isn’t Modulok no DOS? Why would they drop accessories they’ve already tooled? How can they get a quote on a figure which isn’t even sculpted yet?
        I can just as easily say that Ram Man proves there’s no conspiracy, and speculate in any direction. Fang Man got shorted because:
        – Mattel was making Dark Knight figures for a deadline.
        – they had a shortage of blue plastic.
        – a hiccup in the production schedule of Hot Wheels hit at the wrong time and the intentionally shorted the order.
        – manufacturing of the neck piece proved 5x as costly as originally quoted, resulting in making the bare minimum needed.
        – factory tells them two weeks before shipment that if they want the extra figures, it will delay shipment two months.
        – sales figures dictated that they didn’t need any extra Two Bad outside of the sub.
        – to make another batch would require another order of plastic, and they didn’t want to take the risk.
        Any of these could be just as valid a reason – or none of these reasons are the answer. The only guy who does know for sure isn’t talking.

        Adding this because a comment below mentioned it – if there is a pattern, why the #$%^& is Sea Hawk no DOS? If it’s all manipulation and popular figures only get limited, why isn’t Mantenna no DOS?

        • clark says:

          I think the biggest problem is that Scott takes on a very heavy salesman approach to the subs (much less this year than last) and it leaves a bad taste in people’s mouths. As a result they see a lot of these things as arm-twisting sales tactics. On top of that he has been caught saying untruths before. Whether it’s by accident, or because he is instructed to do so, it doesn’t leave a lot of faith in him.

          Others are just mad at the subscription program all out, because it was originally introduced as a purchase of convenience then quickly became a purchase of necessity (whether or not that was Matty’s choice, or if it truly was necessary is again up to interpretation).

          Then people see four figures announced as no DOS during subscription drives, added to heavy salesmanship, and it gets them wondering.

          However, as you pointed out, everything is speculation. I’m not a Mattel or Scott hater, although I do think having Clamp Champ and Two-Bad as no DOS is very convenient timing, I was just playing devil’s advocate with my post about owning factories.

        • Newton says:

          “Why did Ram Man have DOS? Why isn’t Modulok no DOS?”

          You can’t have every figure made no DOS. Just a few, to let people who didn’t subscribe know that you’re serious. They still want and NEED guys to buy DOS. They’ve said it publicly. But at the same time, it’s not their preference. So if they can occasionally try to encourage you to subscribe by making you jump through additional hoops to get a popular character, they will. This is all the more evidenced by the dozens of times that they actually mentioned this in official press releases for the site, subscription, etc.

          I honestly suspect that while I see it as money lost, they probably have bean counters who hypothesize that whatever they lose on not having DOS for Two Bad, they’ll make up by getting more people to sub and thus locking them into a whole year of figures versus one, in the long run. I have no idea if said strategy works, but given that they keep doing it, I suspect they may be right. But it’s still a risky proposition.

          However it’s not Mattel’s least favorite risky proposition and that’s actually making figures and hoping they sell. Mattel loves to remove that risk element (not that I blame them) and they’ll pull stunts like this, so long as it means less figures for them to make and more ways to convince people to subscribe.

          I agree that Scott can’t just come in and tell them how many of what to make, but I think you’re giving them too much of the benefit of the doubt. Certainly there could be particular instances where logistics causes an issue. It no doubt happens at times that make it seem like something else… But there have been far too many holes poked in the whole marketing strategy of this line for years for me to believe that it’s all just happenstance.

          • John K. says:

            All I can do is try to educate people a bit.
            And the main respectful comments I wanted were made – if you know that there might be no shenanigans involved at all with what Mattel says (however unlikely) and choose to believe otherwise, that’s great.

            If there was a fanbase smashing sales records waiting for these things, we wouldn’t have a subscription push the way the last couple of years have gone. But as many have said, we’re in a year where the casual fans are out of here – whatever a casual fan is. You really have to be all-in when the anchor figures are Two Bad, Modulok, and cartoon/POP/NA figures. I like building out the world of Eternia, be it the future, the world of his sister, or whatever.

  • Guitardevil says:

    I didn’t sub & I’m okay w/that. Do I want Too-Bad? Yes but my “cherrypicking” $$ will be appreciated elsewhere….I purchased the DC Vs Motu 2 Packs from Toysrus & all the other figs I missed at Big Lots…..& even at the reduced price Xmas sale on Matty…….whatever excuse Mattel comes up with who says He-man can’t sell at retail…..What really musta peeved people as well was the Voltron Subscribers who coulda waited & purchased the whole giant at the xmas sale….who needed Sven anyway…they bank on the OCD collectors who just have to have every last character no matter how trivial….that said we’ll see how this plays out….

  • Agent 86 says:

    I don’t understand how Mattel selects which characters will have no “day of sale” stock either. The most obvious methodology they appear to apply is whether or not the character will be popular and therefore will making that character a subscription exclusive encourage people to buy a subscription at some variable time in the future (depending upon when the next subscription sale period occurs).

    All of the additional subscription exclusives, including Fang Man, Clamp Champ, Sea Hawk and Two Bad, appear to be pretty popular characters for varying reasons.

    The decision to make Sea Hawk an exclusive to the Filmation subscription is another odd decision given that Mattel has also stated that the “day of sales” results for the Filmation figures will help to decide whether they offer any other mini-subscriptions. While I know PoP is often viewed as the red-headed step-child of MOTUC, Sea Hawk seems to be a character that is popular with fans of MOTU, PoP and Filmation.

    I can only be thankful that Mantenna will have “day of sale” stock. Since Filmation, MOTU vintage and PoP all had additional “exclusives”, I was worried that a member of The Evil Horde would also suffer the same fate in 2013.

    • clark says:

      Mantenna will be available day of sale, as far as we know. Mattel could very easily pull what they did with Clamp Champ, and announce it just a couple of weeks ahead of time.
      I hope we have the chance to get him, and Horde Troopers, because I really want to pick both of them up.
      With the Horde Troopers, if they don’t have DOS Matty would be pissing off everyone, subscribers and non-subscribers alike, because they are supposed to be “army builders,” and you would hope to have the opportunity to buy plenty of them for that purpose.

      • _RZ_ says:

        I think both of those figures will be available day-of, Horde Troopers is simply leaving a lot of money on the table if they did sub-only…

        Unless they have another MOTUC subscription they’d like to sell more of, then I don’t see them doing anymore “No DOS” figures, at least until Two Bad ships in 2014. The No DOS figures so far have all been announced/happened on months they were selling a sub. Since it worked this year, I could see the 2015 drive centering around this again if not 100% sub exclusive- fanbase dwindles more and more every year and it would make sense to have all the B & C-listers be sub only.

        • clark says:

          I’ve been thinking the same thing, that there’s no point in having no DOS for the rest of the year since there are no more subs to sell. However, I still wouldn’t put it past them to hold back a figure like Mantenna just to put the screws to cherry-pickers a little more and say “see, subbing has benefits, yuck-yuck-yuck ;P

          Tactics like that really piss me off. Although I did sub this year (for the first time) it’s not because Two-Bad is sub only, it’s because I happen to be doing better financially than I was the last few years and I’m excited for all the figures that were revealed and hinted at during SDCC.

          I think no DOS is a crappy move to pull. I want everyone to be able to get the figures they want, whether or not they have a sub.

          • _RZ_ says:

            Tactics like this were the main reason I didn’t sub. Not showing the exclusive was the other.

            I really don’t like the “Sub Drive” culture that has sprung up in He-Fandom in the last two-three years. The sub was originally a convenience for fans, not a requirement. Unfortunately someone saw an opportunity to use fans to market the line as a sub and not pay a dime on advertising or PR. As usual, with marketing people and money, it’s like sharks and blood in the water: morality and honesty are thrown away when there’s a profit to be made. And that is not in the spirit of He-Man, or the line, no matter how much some people would like to justify it it’s just not right in any way.

            At first it was understandable (the line is in trouble!) and now it’s become an entitled group of online bullies who are doing intense aggressive advertising for free and attacking anyone who disagrees. Those are harsh words but one only look at some of the comments made this year, and how out of touch with reality some fans are. The behavior I saw on Facebook this year was despicable, and many people celebrated as “so positive” on some sites took things way too far, attacking others in ways that are very not “positive.”

            It’s funny how on one site, a guy is super positive, but on Facebook and elsewhere, it’s so aggressive, I don’t see how anyone else could seriously let people be so duplicitous and dishonest… oh wait, the sub needs to go through… 😉 Now today everyone is a rose, whereas just four days ago, they were attacking others in the most passive aggressive ways. But hey I guess all is fair in “war” when you’re 30 something and so desperate to get expensive remakes of toys that you can buy originals online of for under $15… the old “I want, I want, I don’t care what happens to others as long as I get what *I* want.” I had MOTU when I was four or five years old, and thiry plus years have passed, my maturity level did not stay five years old 😉

            Buy a sub or don’t; don’t peer pressure someone to destroy their finances in order to prove “how much of a real fan” they are; don’t create a false market by encouraging people to over-buy- this is what happened in 2010 and 11 and why there’s thousands of unsold items at Big Lots- just now instead of Matty paying to warehouse them, the fans do. There’s no need to aggressively delete previous years speeches so discrepancies aren’t pointed out. And certainly no need to pit fans against one another. This is the type of thing that helped kill 200x. If you’re offering a good product at a fair price, then why do all this? These is a great line of toys- it sells itself.

            And most of all, for me, every SDCC, stop being so dishonest to the fans. Just think of how many thousands more people would still be into this line if the hard sell stopped, there was DOS stock, etc. Scott and the hard sell has turned off far more fans than it brought to the table.

  • Guitardevil says:

    Right on RZ!! I said as much on a another board & was ignored. And other were attacked for calling into question the whole “He-mometer” tactic which I think is bullS, the whole “Sub” phenom is sickening & LAME. I’ll just use my $$ to buy Star Wars Black 6″ figs…I’ve got a Heman & Skeletor & that was what I really wanted when I started to collect this line anyway….

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