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In Depth Reactions to EA / ESPN Deal 206

Posted by Zonk
from the considerations-from-the-sidelines dept.
Gamespot has a piece up about industry analyst reactions to the EA / ESPN deal. They span the gamut from appreciation for a smart business move to a frustration with a company throwing its weight around. From the article: "Has the fat lady finally sung in the sports-game wars? Should all the other publishers pack it in and head for the showers? Opinions are mixed, but this week's news was one of the year's biggest wins--for Electronic Arts. Now, the industry girds for a string of earnings calls where executives at publicly traded companies--EA and others--will surely face a grilling from curious analysts."
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In Depth Reactions to EA / ESPN Deal

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  • Possible Outcome (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jone5ey (852043)
    If it means that next years Madden on the PC is a finely polished product then I'm all for it. Probably won't happen though.
    • Re:Possible Outcome (Score:3, Informative)

      by RealityMogul (663835)
      This years wasn't that bad. I actually played it for 3 minutes before deleting it.

      I'd consider buying that Madden 95 sega controller they sell at Wal Mart though. I'm sure they did lots of research and determined that was the last year they put out a good Madden game.
      • Madden 95 for the Sega Genesis was indeed a kick-ass game and I'm glad to see them offering it in this form. But of course, there's the huge drawback of having ancient players on there that nobody cares about -- I'd rather play as TEAM PITTSBURGH with QB#7 than the Steelers with Neil O'Donnell. And good thing my favorite team isn't the Ravens, or the Texans, or the Titans (well, that's a good thing anyway).

        Why didn't they think to throw the brand new teams and rosters onto the old Madden 95 shell? Wouldn't
        • Why didn't they think to throw the brand new teams and rosters onto the old Madden 95 shell?

          Simple, how are they going to sell the new game. The only major reason for buying the latest Madden - or any sports game is to upgrade to the latest teams/players/stats/etc... Marketing people would never allow them to sell Madden 95 with an updated roster.
    • You mean this year's Madden with updated rosters? Yeah, somehow I don't think we are going to be seeing any breakthroughs in gameplay.
  • Damn (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:37PM (#11432814)
    Awww shucks,
    that looks like an interesting article.
    However, I can't spare the time to read it.

    Sincerely,

    EA Employee.
    • by ifwm (687373)
      "However, I can't spare the time to read it"

      Whose fault is that? Next time you take a job, do some fucking research. Otherwise don't complain when you get what EVERYONE else gets when they work there.

      Sincerely,

      Someone who doesn't blame others because he made a stupid choice and doesn't have the sack to own up to it
  • Sega won't go away (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shadow Wrought (586631) <shadow.wrought@g ... m minus language> on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:37PM (#11432817) Homepage Journal
    Just because EA locked up ESPN branding doesn't mean the others are going to just go away. If the EA line stagnates because they rest on their branding prowess, then others will step in. I can't say its good for the gaming industry, but I certainly don't think its a death knell.
    • by Fizzlewhiff (256410) <jeffshannon@hotmail. c o m> on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:48PM (#11432938) Homepage
      No, EA has the two big fanchises and the exclusive NFL contracks. The big draw to sports games is playing your favorite team. EA has locked in the NFL and taken ESPN away from SEGA. I played the Sega NFL game and for the past 2 years they have shown more innovation than Madden, to the point where I don't buy EA's Madden anymore. THis year the $19.99 price tag for Sega made a good thing even better. I don't see how Sega can have success now with a generic football game. I like seeing my team, my city, my players. Sega is going to have to do alot more innovation now to get players.

      Next year will be interesting to see what Sega does. It will also be dull only having one choice.
      • by nolife (233813)
        I don't see how Sega can have success now with a generic football game.

        Make it configurable and allow imports of configurations. It would be nice to import teams.bin, stadium.bin, and players.bin and now you have something close to the NFL. Of course I do not know how to handle the audio portion of the commentary. Instead of hearing Bettis carried for 97 yards, you would hear number 33 carried for 97 yards.
      • My girlfriend's from the south, and having visited her folks two weeks ago, I can assert emphatically that Sega could make a killing - at least in that regional market - selling a football game based on *COLLEGE* teams.
        • Err... They make plenty of college football games... I take it you haven't visited a game store recently?
          • by ahmusch (777177)
            Sure they make plenty -- provided one is plenty.

            EA is currently the only game in town for a college football product, and even that is restricted only to consoles. One cannot purchase a college football game for a PC -- the *only* college football game is available on Gamecube, Xbox, and PS2.

            One can get FIFA and UEFA games on PC (in the US!), but no college football. Never mind that there are millions of fans of college football who pack stadiums on autumn Saturdays.

            It's bordering on criminal. I imagi
      • "No, EA has the two big fanchises and the exclusive NFL contracks(sic)"

        What big two? Surely you don't mean ESPN. If you think having the ESPN franchise will add anything to any game, you're a fool. They're a TV station, with some pseudo-celebrities. How will blathering idiotic commentary (that we all skip over anyway) improve a game?
      • Proving once again that it's not innovate gameplay we want; it's the pretty pictures.

        Geez.
    • by Moby Cock (771358)
      I think they may be best served my migrating into the College Football domain. The EA franchise there is weak, although it is there unto itself, with no competition. And college football is extremely popular. It could work very nicely. If Sega could get exclusivity from the NCAA that would be a big boon. It may not be possible though, I have no idea how sweeping the NCAA control over marketing and licensing is.
      • EA's NCAA football game is weak and has no competition because few people want college football video games. Most players, when faced with a choice between NFL and college, will choose the NFL game.
    • Just because EA locked up ESPN branding doesn't mean the others are going to just go away.

      Well, yes, they should go away. They should go away and invent a new game that takes full advantage of the computer medium. Some new game that doesn't just copy the experience of watching a television program based on a bunch of guys running around a field and throwing an odd-shaped ball.
      A video game based on football is two-degrees of seperation from the participants of the actual game itself. So go away
    • I think people are forgetting or perhaps they are too you young to remember when madden didn't have real names. Just Cities and teams. People knew what players they were and it didn't bother most very much.
  • EA Wins (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I know you can make a game configurable enough to have names and rosters and even uniformans for real NFL teams be downloadable but on the marketing front is where I think any non-EA unit will struggle since their commercials won't have the rela players.

    On the upside, it might force all non-EA game makers to really upgrade their products on the gameplay front since they will have to win by knockout on the "This game is just hands down better than Madden".

    Still, I uspect given the general populations procl
    • Re:EA Wins (Score:2, Interesting)

      by MaelstromX (739241)
      I know you can make a game configurable enough to have names and rosters and even uniformans for real NFL teams be downloadable but on the marketing front is where I think any non-EA unit will struggle since their commercials won't have the rela players.

      The other manufacturers will have to focus on 2 main points:

      (1) Free and easily downloadable "unofficial" team/roster sets. This will end up even being a plus because nobody will be playing with outdated rosters -- your favorite team can be as current as
      • You missed one:

        (3). Gameplay. I'll use Burnout 3 as an example. It is easily the best racing game many gamers have ever played, and yet, unlike most other games in the genre, it doesn't feature one brand name car-- but has stunning gameplay. It didn't even need heavy marketing, because the word of mouth was so effective. I still enjoy old school NES Double Dribble, for that matter, a basketball game featuring no-name stick figures.

        You don't need big names to make a good game, even a sports game.

    • get ready for Madden 2005 to be the stanard game you'll be playing until, oh say, 2010

      What? I have to play some crappy football game for five years? Oh wait, you meant standard, and if I were to play football on a computer, which I don't.

      I never understood sports re-creation games. I don't even watch football on TV. I like football, but watching it, or playing a computer version of it just seems really boring. I guess if you don't have any friends who are willing to play for real the computer versi

      • Translation of your post: "I don't enjoy football video games, so there must be something wrong with people who do enjoy them."

        You realize that different people enjoy different things, right? And you also realize that there are plenty of people who think _your_ favorite genres of games (assuming you play games at all) are lame and pointless, right?

        Well, I'll give you credit for at least ending your post with a question. So I'll give you one answer.

        I used to really enjoy watching football and baseball,
        • Translation of your post: "I don't enjoy football video games, so there must be something wrong with people who do enjoy them."

          Whoa! No need to get so defensive their sparky. I never said their was anything wrong with liking them, I just asked what people saw in them. You say you like the strategy, and I can see that. I never really played football on a strategy sort of level. It is always more of a "hit people hard and fast, and be sneaky" sort of a game for me. Fancy plays are less my forte.

          BTW

          • Whoa! No need to get so defensive their sparky. I never said their was anything wrong with liking them, I just asked what people saw in them.

            Okay, I'll buy your assertion that you at least didn't _intend_ to be insulting, but you should be aware that:

            I guess if you don't have any friends who are willing to play for real the computer version might make for a really, really lame substitute.

            I guess this is just part of the "hoop-dreams" fantasy. I wish I were a famous athlete, but I am too lazy to get of

      • Almost every college and professional football player plays Madden religiously.

        In other words, you're full of shit.
        • Almost every college and professional football player plays Madden religiously.

          Occasionally when someone makes an assertion I wonder, "how would they collect the data on that?" It makes a good baseline for judging the likelihood of their being, as you so eloquently put it, "full of shit." I'm guessing that you are certainly full of it. In any case, I just said I don't enjoy the video games, although I do enjoy the sport. Assuming for some reason not related to your credibility that every professional a

          • Well, I guess my friends in the NFL who play religiously could be lying, but I don't know why they would.

            As to College players, I can verify it for my school, players I've met from other schools, and media reports. It's possible that such a sample is skewed, but I doubt it.
  • by matth1jd (823437) on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:41PM (#11432849)
    When there's one football game, one baseball game, one hockey game simply because companies have exclusive rights to the NFL, MBL, and NHL and their respective entities.

    I could care less about whether it's branded ESPN, but if EA signs a deal with the NFL and Madden's the only football game on the block I'm going to be pissed.
    • And I'm going to hate the day when there's only one major league in each sport, because the NFL, NHL, NBA, and major league baseball have exclusive deals with the TV networks. Oh wait.
      • Don't worry, there'll be NO major league for hockey soon.

        \it was as if millions of Canadians' voices cried out in anguish, then was suddenly silenced....
        • The Stanley Cup trustees should just announce that they're going to go back to awarding the cup to the best amateur team in Canada instead of to the winner of the NHL's playoffs if the 2 sides can't salvage this season.
      • I'd much rather see a system similar to Europe's football leagues with their unfetter capitalistic approach. Rather then having X historic teams around forever, teams operate basically as businesses. They do all their own licensing, etc. and as teams get better they start playing better teams.
        • I'm actually not sure I agree. Capitalism may be the best system for producing the best product at the lowest price. However, the goal of the NFL is not to produce the best possible football team, it is to product the most exciting games possible, which is generally produced by having teams which are very close to the same skill level. Hence salary caps, draft picks, and other such "socialist" practices.

          Of course, with European football (soccer) I guess you need uneven teams just to make sure that someo


          • Of course, with European football (soccer) I guess you need uneven teams just to make sure that someone's going to get on the scoreboard... God what a boring game. Why don't they widen the goals or something? Jesus.


            While I'm not a big fan of soccer, or sports in general, I can appreciate soccer's beauty.

            In American football and basketball, what are the final scores? 114-89? The difference that every point makes is minimal.

            In soccer, each goal is precious, because normally there are just one or two per
    • Uh... EA already did this like 3 weeks ago. EA already signed a deal with the NFL, Madden is going to be the only NFL football game on the block for quite some time.

      This ESPN deal is just the nail in any SEGA attempts at masqurading their next football game as an NFL game. Now they are pretty much forced to explore either an entirely fictional league, or go after one of the lesser known leagues. I know EA also has a deal with the Arena league, and I would assume the NFL deal also has rights to the World
  • John Madden, Al Michaels, and guess who... Chris Berman doing the halftime and postgame. That's what I believe they will try to sell out of the gates. I sure hope hope they work on gameplay and introducing new features as well in Madden. That was the beauty of having competition in the market, you could look at the competitor and think, "How do we top that?"

    I sure hope we do not have stale games with roster updates and better graphics.
  • by Speare (84249) on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:42PM (#11432869) Homepage Journal
    The first thing that came to my mind when I heard it was that "long contracts mean weak projections." You have to have a lot of years to demand a lot of dollars. If ESPN's projections for growth in this arena were better, there'd be a lot more pressure for shorter contracts so they could return to the auction block sooner.
  • The score... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lendrick (314723) on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:42PM (#11432870) Homepage Journal
    EA 1, Customers 0
  • So EA can brand their games with ESPN. Woohoo. Big f***ing deal. I don't see how this is of any real importance (unless I'm missing something?)

    The exclusive NFL deal was a lot worse for competition..
    • So EA can brand their games with ESPN. Woohoo. Big f***ing deal. I don't see how this is of any real importance (unless I'm missing something?

      You are missing something, but that's because you aren't a fan of ESPN. There is a very real and devoted group out there who love ESPN. They love SportsCenter, their commercials ("This is SportsCenter"), and their personalities (Dan Patrick, Boomer, Dick Vitale, etc.). ESPN has garnered an MTV-like (and I mean 1980's MTV) aura and devotion to it.

      Combined with the

  • Let's assume that EA dominates the sports gaming market. The problem for that is that it could kill off that market in the process.

    Imagine that if only one music group controlled a genre of music, e.g., if only the Rolling Stones played the blues (it's a joke damit!). Overtime fans of the blues would get bored of the same content being produced and would stop listening.

    This could happen here too. Variety in gaming helps the entire gaming industry by keeping people excited and interested.
  • My biggest problem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hollismb (817357) on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:52PM (#11432982) Homepage

    Isn't so much that they screwed Sega over, yet again, or that real NFL players won't be in any Sega football game, or that the teams won't be either. You could very easily create fake teams that looked like their real-life counterparts, and players that mimicked the real ones, then jsut give options to change the names on everything. The thing you can't get around, however, is that they can't use the real stadiums.

    And, as far as I know, they don't have an exclusive license on college football. I think Sega should refocus their efforts on college football, and simply blow away the market while they still have a chance.

  • by weszz (710261)
    I've heard some talk of a series that's kind of like the tv series Playmakers, also something about a All Pro game using maybe people from the Hall of Fame (they are not part of the NFL Players Association anymore)

    but what about just going with the old XFL? there was some pretty cools tuff in there that could make a video game quite fun... and it's got to be pretty cheap, same idea and all behind it, but you can go nuts with the features since XFL probably would have liked them...

    All you need is to rememb
    • I would love a football game with Hall of Fame players but I don't see it happening. They would have to reach and individual agreement with every player. For current NFL players they just need one agreement from the NFLPA. Why bother with the XFL? I actually watched the games and I still don't remember anybody but Rod Smart (He Hate Me).

      A non-NFL licenced game would be like generic Cherrios in a plastic bag. Sure it may taste the same but people will still pay for the fancy box thinking it really tast
  • What I thought most interesting in the article was the quote from the Morgan Securities analyst. He said, "There's nothing illegal or unethical about what EA is doing....Microsoft did the same kind of things to improve its position."

    Isn't it funny how seemingly incompatible those two phrases are? Nearly everyone these days recognizes that Microsoft is a monopoly, including the government. How exactly does one think you get to be a monopoly? It's by doing the sort of things that EA is doing (in the beginnin

    • Yeah, um, no one says Microsoft is a monopoly, but rather (this is important so pay attention) that they used monopolistic tactics, that COULD HAVE resulted in a monopoly.

      And before all you slahbots flame me, I own an iBook, and run Fedora Core 2 on my desktop. I don't own a single computer (out of 5) that runs any version of WIndows. If microsoft were a monopoly, none of this would be possible.

      Attempting to be a monopoly is not the same as actually BEING a monopoly. I know hating on MS will get you ka
  • by gorbachev (512743) on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:55PM (#11433011) Homepage
    A few out-of-context statements from a bunch of financial analysts is in depth analysis now?
  • by revery (456516) <charles@[ ]2.net ['cac' in gap]> on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:55PM (#11433017) Homepage
    As always, when someone corners a market, this is the time for other companies to look at what makes sports games fun and come at this from a brand new angle. Sports games that abstract away some of the rules of the game to increase action or speed, new sports, new types of players (but more thought out than "what about Orcs with football helmets?" or "hey what if the players were robots?" type of ideas) though a Warcraft style sport game where teams can be made up of different races and players can mix and match to their hearts content would be interesting...

    Anyway, whether these are stupid ideas or not, now is the time for game designers to innovate instead of whine about EA. If they get truly desperate, they can always go and find some Finnish computer science student who's been thinking about designing a game engine. I hear they have great ideas...

    • Your wish is my command.

      Chaos League [chaosleaguegame.com]

    • Games like Madden are much more popular than games like NFL Blitz or Backyard Football for a reason.

      The serious sports gamers--the guys who are willing to fork over $50 to re-buy their favorite football franchise year after year--want the game to be as realistic as possible.

      The people who are interested in playing football with mutants or Mario or whatever are more of a niche market, and generally won't keep buying new versions of the game on a yearly basis.
      • Having an offical license for a sports game is a value add, and, as you mention, potentially a very large one. Which means that companies that want to continue to make sports games without having an official sports license are going to have to come up with something to set them apart and above from the licensed franchises.

        I don't really care how they or do it, or whether they succeed or not, but that's what they are going to have to do...

  • by Moby Cock (771358) on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:58PM (#11433044) Homepage
    I look at it this, the glass is half-full, way. The ESPN license will change the EA football franchise away from Madden. Because, the way I see it, Madden is one of the weakest parts of that franchise. I like Al Michaeals on the play-by-play, but all the repetative MAdden-isms are awful.

    I preferred the ESPN football the last few years. The gameplay was better in ESPN/Sega, but not so much so that one was much better than the other. But the voice over work was much less irritating and made for a better game experience.

    The exclusivity for EA and the NFL is a serious problem and I think it will lower the innovation in the football genre and it concerns me greatly, but ESPN licensing, is not that big of a deal to me.
    • I like Al Michaeals on the play-by-play, but all the repetative MAdden-isms are awful. I preferred the ESPN football the last few years. The gameplay was better in ESPN/Sega, but not so much so that one was much better than the other. But the voice over work was much less irritating and made for a better game experience.

      Did you ever consider that maybe it was Sega and not ESPN that made the game a good game?
  • A brand name and a sport are two separate things... Wake me up when they award copyrights on the rules to baseball, hockey and football.
  • by ObligatoryUserName (126027) on Friday January 21, 2005 @01:01PM (#11433086) Journal
    I posted this on a previous story, but now it's truly on-topic. I did a comic strip [perscrumption.com] about this on Wednesday.

    The thing that's galling about this is the amount of lip-service that EA has given in the past to supporting the video game ecosystem. They've maintained they don't want to be the only video game developer, they just want to be the best. However, as soon as they are faced with truly healthy competition, their response is to burn a lot of resources killing it off. EA was never in danger of losing the NFL license, and the ESPN brand carries less weight than the Madden brand in the football game market. They have mentioned some possible features with ESPN data-feeds, but to me this deal just feels like insult to injury.
  • I'm not at liberty to provide the details (because I worked for the game company), but ESPN once signed an "exclusive" deal with Radical Entertainment and that went... badly.

    Just because EA is involved doesn't mean a) it will succede, and b) that ESPN won't cancel the deal if they're unhappy.

    *sigh* Bad memories... *starts rocking back and forth sucking thumb*
  • Utterly debased and corrupt crime empires that deserve each other almost as much as their fans do.
    • < TROLL >Utterly debased and corrupt crime empires that deserve each other almost as much as their fans do.< /TROLL >

      Dude why do fans deserve it?? Do you just hate people that like things you don't like??
      • A troll is something said for the express and sole purpose of starting an argument.

        Lack of sympathy is not the same thing as hatred. If you accept for a moment that EA/NFL/etc. are as I say, who made them rich? Who continues to make them so? Why?
        • <BABBLE>Lack of sympathy is not the same thing as hatred. If you accept for a moment that EA/NFL/etc. are as I say, who made them rich? Who continues to make them so? Why?</BABBLE>

          I think you are playing word semantics and answering a question with a question.

  • Okay, I'm not exactly an expert on how each sports league handles the contracts for their respective trademarks and exclusive use in video games, but I would be very surprised to learn that ESPN has a long term deal with each of them.

    The article states that ESPN has only a 5-year deal with the NFL. What's to stop another network/entity from striking an exclusive deal after that contract terminates ? What if Murdock at Fox wants to become the next game mogule and uses his weight to get an exclusive Fox/N
    • Okay, you've got some things mixed up here, so let me try to explain....

      ESPN has nothing to do with EA's right to use the names of NFL teams and players in their games. EA has to have a deal with the NFL to use team names, and a deal with the NFLPA (Players Association) to use player names. The REAL problem here isn't the ESPN deal, it's the other deal EA made--the deal they made with the NFL to get _exclusive_ rights to team and player names. (I assume that's the 5-year deal you read about; that deal h
  • My favorite sports games have all been relatively unlicensed ones, with the exception of NBA Street which is a very loose use of the license and even largely revolves around non-licensed players.

    With the other sports companies now focusing on their games instead of being true to the real thing or adhering to the various license standards, maybe we'll see more old school action oriented style sports games.
  • From the article: "It's a slap. It's a slam dunk. Pick your sports metaphor. This makes it tougher for people already facing an uphill battle to compete."

    A slap??! Oh, he was talking about Warren Moon..
  • "There's nothing illegal or unethical about what's EA's doing; it's just good business for them...It's downright predatory."

    Thats a pretty good illustration of one of the dangers of "free market" capitalism: It needs good competition to remain healthy, and if there is nothing to ensure that it actually stays free market then those with the means will erect barriers to competition, and "the market" may not correct it. Nevermind that predatory business practices are technically illegal, I understand that t
  • I agree with a couple of posts here in that the direction that non-EA sports game producers should take now is more of a fantasy tack. Forget using real stars and real names. Maybe don't even use ALL the real rules. How about getting back to *fun*, folks? Get creative, maybe? Here's one- Invent a networkable baseball game that uses all the modern 3D technology but has invented, larger-than-life characters with a certain amount of personality. (Remember the movie "Major League"?) Hire a good writer to create
    • Along those same lines, I'd like to see a rpg type sport game. Start out as the QB in pee wee football (A whole pee wee football would be a funny title all in itself). You basically build stats for your guy and recruit a team to yourself as you grow up. Go on to high school to college to a pro league of some sort. Would be great to see people you "know" from peewee being opposing qb's or to recruit them for your team on the pro league. This way you grow a charcter and move on from different settings up unti
  • by Shant3030 (414048) * on Friday January 21, 2005 @03:45PM (#11434893)
    ESPN has destroyed sports, from the way they are anazlyed, viewed and even played.

    Take the NBA for instance. The game has changed and become a league where players are more concerned with getting on SportsCenter, than actually playing well and winning. Being on SportsCenter, probably means you made some amazing dunk and therefore will be getting notoriety for a quiet inconsequently part of the game.

    On the analysis front, ESPN does a great job of injecting meaningless storylines into games. They over analyze sports, bring up meaningless statistics and really loose focus on the most important part of sports, the actual athletic contest.

    This a terrible move for the future of sports games. ESPN will undoubtedly bash sports fans over the head with overblown tie-ins and advertisements.

    For someone who loves sports and video games, I'm saddened by this corporate sponsorship.
  • EA is the worst thing to happen to gaming.

    They buy up companies and run them into the ground.
    They leech off of sure money-makers and run them into the ground.
    They hire bright young programmers and run them into the ground, knowing there are more waiting in the queue.

    Finally, I will never forgive them for destroying Maxis and Westwood Studios.

    I'm sick of the incessant sports games; they bought up and buried so many of the creative companies who would actually innovate and pose real competition, instead of
    • I have already boycotted purchasing ANY EA games. I damn well hope others do the same.

      Ever since they ate up Westwood Studios, I couldn't find anything that equaled the original RedAlert.

      I clap with joy to know Sims online was a disaster for the EA dictators.

  • Now they just need to aquire the rights to Formula 1 back from eveil Sony and we can get an F1 console game back in the US.

    --D

He keeps differentiating, flying off on a tangent.

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