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We Got Next - Part One (Xbox)

GameSpy reveals details on the next Xbox console.

By Raymond M. Padilla March 8, 2005

For several GameSpy editors, Game Developers Conference (GDC) is one of the best and most enjoyable events held each year. One of the primary reasons for GameSpy's GDC love is that the editors get to interact with some of the best talents in the business. Recently, some of GameSpy's friends in the development community shared a ton of details on Microsoft's next console system. Keep in mind that all of this information is based off of alpha development kits and current projections for the final hardware. Everything is subject to change. In the first part of our Xbox expose, I'll cover the console's hardware components and software goals. Since the final name of the next Xbox hasn't been revealed yet, I'll refer to the system by its codename, Xenon.

The Guts of the Next Box

CPU- Xenon's CPU has three 3.0 GHz PowerPC cores. Each core is capable of two instructions per cycle and has an L1 cache with 32 KB for data and 32 KB for instructions. The three cores share 1 MB of L2 cache. Alpha 2 developer kits currently have two cores instead of three.

GPU- Xenon's GPU is a generation beyond the ATI X800. Its clock speed is 500 MHz and it supports Shader 3.0. Developers are currently working with an alpha 2 GPU. Beta GPU units are expected by May and the final GPU is slated for a summer release. The final GPU will be more powerful than anything on the market today; in game terms, it would handle a game like Half-Life 2 with ease.

System Memory- Xenon will have 256 MB of system RAM. Keep in mind that this number should not be equated to typical PC RAM. The Xbox has 64 MB of system RAM and is a very capable machine.

Optical Drive- As many have speculated, Xenon will not use Blu-Ray or HD-DVD. Games will come on dual-layer DVD-9 discs. While the media is the same as that of the current Xbox, the usable space on each disc is up to 7 GB. The drive is slated to run at 12X.

Memory Units- Xenon will use 64 MB to 1,024 MB memory cards. 8 MB is reserved for system use, leaving a 56 MB to 1,016 MB for user data.

Hard Drive- As many have speculated, Xenon's hard drive is optional. 2 GB of the drive will be used as game cache. The final drive size is still being determined.

Camera- Xenon will have a USB 2.0 camera. It's capable of 1.2 megapixel still shots and VGA video. Photos can be used in-game and for gamer profiles. The camera can also be used for video chat. It's unknown if the Xenon camera will allow for EyeToy-like gameplay. Developers are currently using a simulated camera driver.

Sound Chip- Xenon does not have an audio chip in the traditional sense. Decompression is handled by hardware, while the rest of the chores are handled by software. DirectSound3D has been dropped in favor of X3DAudio. The former was deemed too inflexible.

Raymond's Reaction- The Xenon is an extremely impressive piece of hardware. It will allow gamers to see things like complex lighting in gameplay, amazing details through high-level shading (impeccable clouds, fur, grass, cloth, water, marble, ground, etc.), incredible textures, and new post effects (increased motion blur, heat distortion, depth of field, light blooms, etc.).

While people have already been correctly speculating about the removable hard drive and the standard DVD media, I was surprised at the inclusion of the camera. I haven't heard a single rumbling about a Xenon camera prior to GDC. The optional hard drive is a bit understandable; the only gamers that care about it will buy it anyway, while casual gamers won't care about the performance and convenience gains a drive offers. The standard DVD isn't too surprising considering that HD-DVD drives will be too expensive for inclusion in a console system in 2005.

The Software

Microsoft is requiring developers to make all Xenon titles Live enabled. One of the key reasons for this will be revealed in the second part of this story.

Developers are being instructed to plan their games for high-definition. The baseline is 720p at 1280x720 for gameplay and video clips, 16:9 aspect ratio, 5.1 Surround Sound, and anti-aliasing. These features are the current minimum requirement.

All Xenon games can be played using custom soundtracks. Owners can also play their own music directly. Supported formats are MP3 and WMA. Files can be encoded up to 320Kbps CBR or VBR stereo. The system is branded a Music Player Service.

For gameplay movies, Xenon uses Xenon Motion Video (XMV). XMV is based on Windows Media 9 and uses the mandatory codec for HD-DVD. The goal for video is 720p running at 30 frames per second with 5.1 Surround Sound.

Raymond's Reaction - Mandatory Live "awareness" isn't a big surprise. Online is one area where Microsoft is trouncing the competition. Microsoft's progression with online console gaming has progressed wonderfully (see Halo 2) and the future plans are even more interesting. (Again, see part two of this feature tomorrow for more information.)

It's nice to see that Microsoft is being aggressive with HD performance. Having all games run at 720p (potentially) makes for an incredibly engrossing experience -- particularly owners of HDTV sets. Users with standard televisions needn't worry; 16:9 content will be letterboxed to fit within a 4:3 aspect ratio by default. Developers are being instructed to make sure that any critical text will fit into and look good in 4:3.


We Got Next - Part Two (Xbox)

GameSpy reveals details on the next Xbox console.

By Raymond M. Padilla :: March 8, 2005

Microsoft Supports Profiling

Whether the games are single player or multiplayer, all Xenon titles tie into a new gamer profile feature. Think of it as a universal profile for each gamer that uses the system; the gamer profiles are the player's single identity across all Xenon games. Similar to how a single Windows XP machine can be set up for multiple users, each Xenon system will house profiles for every gamer it serves. This feature is fantastic for households with multiple gamers, since each player's settings can be saved in his or her profile and selected when the system boots.

The system is very flexible. You're able to choose universal settings while making exceptions for individual games. You can set your profile to automatically set inverted controls and yellow uniforms if that's your preference, but if for some reason you prefer to play Splinter Cell with a standard look and orange uniforms you can change the setting for just that title.

The settings are available online and offline. System settings can be brought up in every Xenon title. The profile is also where you make your privacy and opt-in selections.

The profile also records achievements and something dubbed "Gamer Cred." Achievements are game-specific tasks, such as beating a certain boss or completing a level in a certain amount of time. Achievements can be awarded online and offline; the baseline is for every game to award at least five achievements. Gamer Cred is how much you're awarded for each achievement. The more games you play and the better you do, the more Gamer Cred you'll earn. Microsoft's is suggesting that developers award at least 1000 Gamer Cred points per title.

Parents will be pleased to learn that the profile system includes extensive parental controls and privileges. The system lets parents decide what games their kids are allowed to play, as well as if their children are allowed to share their profile and chat with other players. Software controls allow parents to select multiplayer restrictions.

Last, but not least, is the "Gamer Card." Think of it as an at-a-glance gamer profile. The Gamer Card allows other online players to quickly see another's Gamertag, title, Gamer Creds, reputation rating, gamer zone, country, and title. It's a virtual membership card that helps gamers find people to play with. If you think you've found a match then you can select the Gamer Card to view that player's full profile to make sure.

Raymond's Reaction - While impressive hardware specs obviously lead to a more powerful console, additions like the gamer profile can have a bigger impact on the user experience. It's great that multiple users can turn on the livingroom Xenon and have it boot so that all their settings are active. It's fantastic that gamers no longer have to change settings each time they buy a new game in their favorite genre. And it's subtly powerful that gamers can make exceptions to their settings as they see fit. This feature is all about personalizing the console experience and it should work quite well.

The achievement options are excellent. It's a way for players to be competitive, earn bragging rights, and attain additional satisfaction for playing games. Rewarding the player is always a good thing and awarding Gamer Cred gives players a higher sense of accomplishment that can be shared with or showed off to the Xenon community.

As extensive as the gamer profile is, it's nice that there's a quick way to check out other players with the Gamer Card.

Cumin' Atcha Live

As I noted in part one of this feature, all Xenon titles will be Live enabled. The console itself will have system-enabled Live features including:

-- Friends management

-- Access to recent players

-- Message center

-- Game invite management

-- User notifications

-- Gamer profile

-- One-on-one voice chat

-- Downloads

-- Feedback

-- Sign-in

It will be easier than ever for players to communicate with others on Xenon. Players no longer need to create custom message centers for each game. The message center manages player-to-player messages, friend invites, game invites, open P2P messaging, service-to-player messages, and title-to-player messages. Players can also communicate via voice and video chat.

All online multiplayer games are required to have social and ranked matches. Social matches rely on affiliate list tracking. Each player can be in contact with 1500 others, including friends, recent players, and preferred players.

Downloads will be managed from a central system user interface. They will appear as offers to the player in a download marketplace. Free and premium downloads will be supported. Developers will be able to send players to the marketplace and notify them when new content is available.

As I mentioned when I was discussing the Gamer Card, other players can see your various profile stats quickly. One of the most pertinent stats to Live is player reputation. Players will be able to grade, compliment, and complain about other players. Reviews are tied to a player's own experience as well. It's unclear how the whole system will be policed. It's a great feature, but one that can be taken advantage of and seems difficult to arbitrate. The complaint system is managed by Microsoft customer service.

Raymond's Reaction - Microsoft is taking all the great exciting features of Xbox Live, adding some enhancements, and tying it all together in a clean way. Its goal here is to make online console gaming easier in order to expand the audience. The unified Live experience definitely makes online gaming more accessible, while still allowing developers to make game-specific customizations.

I'm quite intrigued by the concept of a download marketplace. As the content library grows, console download shopping can be another activity gamers can use Xenon for. If Microsoft adds user reviews for downloadable content then the download marketplace might turn into a Seeing a lot of positive user reviews for a download might get gamers interested in a title they didn't consider before.

In Conclusion

In many ways, the gamer profile and Live features are more interesting than the hardware specs. Even before this article, everyone knew that Microsoft would be releasing a more powerful system. Gamers didn't really know or never thought about how the company would make playing console games different. These features show how Microsoft is changing the console experience by increasing personalization and ease of use. Sony hasn't discussed much of anything regarding the PlayStation 3, while Nintendo promises something radically different with its next system. Microsoft seems to be employing a sound strategy of building on the experience that millions of consumers enjoy while simultaneously making it easier for more of them to get in to.

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I wanted to comment here because these system specs really bother me. For all intents and purposes, it's 3 G5 chips. That kind of hardware does not come cheap. Each of those chips alone probably costs what a current X-Box costs to produce. I'm sure the costs will drop between now and its release, but it looks to me like Microsoft might eat some losses on the hardware end of things.

Another thing that really pisses me off is these "microtransaction" things they're pushing. Selling unique graphics and such for things like racing games for small prices like $0.50 is really odd. I guess I don't really care if it's just things like rims and graphics, but what's to stop them from selling things like horsepower boosts? If it's just in there as a shortcut for people who don't want to spend hours unlocking things, I don't care, as long as gamers can still unlock any performance related content without having to pay extra. It's not fair to take away from skilled gamers because they don't want to pay more money after paying $50 for a game.

The portable hard drive sounds pretty cool, though.

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The microtransaction thing is bullshit. Speculation states that games will no longer feature unlockable content (or, if they do, the amount will be seriously decreased); instead, asJ Marv noted, developers will be charging minimal fees for it. Worse yet, it won't keep the price down. In fact, it looks like games may hit $70 for the next gen systems.

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Here's part 3 of the article:

Question: Will Xenon have backwards compatibility?

Answer: This is, by far, the most common question that you guys have been asking. The short answer is that it's still being determined.

From what I've heard (and what several outlets have been reporting already), the original plans were for the system not to have backwards compatibility. From a numbers standpoint, it makes sense. More than a few publishers have told me that the feature isn't nearly as important as enthusiasts think; publishers feel that it's vital for the first year of the console's lifespan at best and only if the launch lineup is weak.

Sources tell me that Microsoft is now considering a backwards compatibility solution, mostly because of the marketing hit the system would take for not having it. It's almost not worth the trouble to omit the feature.

Question: Why is there only 256 MB of RAM?

Answer: The mistake many readers are making is to equate the amount of RAM to that of a PC. A console does not need as much RAM as a PC because it's a specialized device that serves a specific function and it does not need to run a full operating system.

That said, a few developers pulled me aside to tell me that they think Microsoft is upping the RAM to 512 MB.

Question: Will gamer profile information be used for sales and marketing purposes?

Answer: From what I've heard, there will be some opt-in features for gamers to receive information on products they might enjoy. The choice is entirely up to each user of the console and the selection will be saved in the gamer profile.

Question: Will there be 1080i games for Xenon?

Answer: Yes for sure.

Question: Will Xenon have wireless controllers standard?

Answer: More than a few sources have said that wireless controllers will be standard. A few have said that the design is pretty similar to the Type-S controller, but with the black and white buttons placed in a more optimal position.

Question: Since the hard drive is optional, will downloads be stored online or will the hard drive be required for downloadable content?

Answer: Nobody I asked knew anything about Internet-stored content. They all are under the impression that the hard drive will be required for downloadable content.

Question: How much will it cost?

Answer: None of my sources knew the cost of the system. Everyone expects the answer to this to be revealed this May at E3 2005.

Wireless controllers standard is nice. WMP 9 is weird, especially considering they're on version 10 in Windows.

And Yoda, I don't know if it's the end of unlockable content. On the console side of things, offline play is still king. Hell, it's still king on the PC and the PC has a much better online experience than any console can offer. I seriously doubt that this generation completely ends it. But the Forza demo during the Microsoft Keynote was really disturbing.

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But the Forza demo during the Microsoft Keynote was really disturbing.

Yes, it was. And that's what's got most people worried about this whole microtransaction thing possibly killing unlockable content.

And I truly hope the system is backwards compatible. First and foremost, it will allow people who are new to Microsoft's system to purchase old games for play on the new machine. And, less importantly, people who have the Xbox will be able to put the bulky console away but they'll still be able to play their favorite titles.

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  • 1 month later...

This is rumored to be a leaked image of the Xbox 360. (Click it for a larger version.)


IGN posts several reasons why this might indeed be legit:

The Real Xbox 360?

A new, suspicious, and convincing image appears on the Net.

by Douglass C. Perry

April 22, 2005 - Late Friday afternoon, a purportedly leaked image of the new Xbox 360 appeared on the Net, giving gamers their first potentially real look at Microsoft's soon-to-be-announced next-generation console.

Multiple images have appeared on the Web in the last month, all with claims to be the next Xbox 360. The last included a wild-looking console box partially surrounded by a quarter-circle handle. That image was actually a sneaked photograph from a Microsoft office and the alleged console was held by Microsoft's Vice Corporate President J Allard. The image, while possibly real, looked more like a prototype than a final console. This new image looks intriguingly more like an actual final model for a number of reasons.

Microsoft normally doesn't comment on rumors or speculation, so while a few phone calls were placed, it was much too late in the day to reach a representative to comment on the image.

Leaked onto a forum Friday, April 22, -- and not related to the Microsoft "ourcolony" viral campaign -- this image shows a Macintosh-esque, TiVo-like console with a silver metallic shell and luminiscent green outline. The general shape is that of a PC with soft edges, and subtle concave lines. It's also quite small. Much smaller, in fact, than the current, Cadillac-style Xbox. To get a feel for how small it is, the DVD-tray looks more than half the width of the entire console compared to the current console, containing a disc tray that's smaller relative to its larger width and depth.

The face shows two Memory Units A and B, plus a black I/O port, theoretically for the RF controllers. Instead of the multiple green swirls shown in previous Microsoft ads, a large green circle appears on the right-hand side. And a round-edged sliding disc tray appears above the memory units. And, in line with information spread to us from developers, the unit appears as if it could sit horizontally or vertically, like Sony's PS2 unit.

The leak is interesting for a couple of reasons. Normally fake images are produced in RGB, and they have been, so far, low-res images. This image is in high-resolution, plus it's formatted in CMYK, a printable format, suggesting it could have come from an asset disc. Additionally, the image corroborates the design ideas we've heard about, with the system looking more similar to a PC or a TiVo than a console system. Even more so, there are RF slots for wireless controllers, memory slots not contained on the controller, and the console lacks four controller ports, as we were told.

As with anything leaked on the 'net, this image could also be a complete fake, and some sneaky online artist is drinking beer and laughing his ass off at all the speculation. Or it could be the real thing and Microsoft is again trying to find the informant.

We'll have more on Xbox 360 soon, whether it's speculation, fact, or purely artistic rendering.

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OH MY GOD. That thing is HIDEOUS. I could have designed something better looking in high school. If you want people who don't normally play games to take it into their homes, you need to not make it stand out. It should look natural in a home theater setup. That thing doesn't. And why does everybody have a hard on for huge LED's? This trend (and it's been going on for years) needs to end. Now.

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Ugly, ugly, ugly. Does Microsoft not know how to design a console?

Optical Drive- As many have speculated, Xenon will not use Blu-Ray

They really are missing out on a niche here. If they got their hands on it quickly and got used to it, they would totally blow the competition away with the next set of consoles after this.

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It should look natural in a home theater setup. That thing doesn't.

I agree. If the XBox 2 looks like that when released, it will reinforce the perception that video games are still a children's toy.


One would think that the design of the box (no pun intended) would not matter, but people make a lot of judgements on appearance. That thing looks like a toy, in my always humble opinion.


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I'm assuming this is the bottom (when you stand it vertically, for various reasons including the air intake layout), and if that pic is legit, then that's different from the previous one, but obviously really similar. I have no problems with the brushed metal look, but why does the drive not match the front bezel, that's ugly.

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  • 2 weeks later...
New Xbox details leak out ahead of launch

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Extensive details of Microsoft Corp.'s newest video game console leaked out on the Internet on Monday, three days ahead of the console's formal worldwide unveiling on MTV.

Based on pictures and purported eyewitness accounts that made the rounds of the Internet over the weekend, the console will be known as "Xbox 360."

Microsoft would not confirm any of the information circulating on the Web, saying "everything you are reading about at this point is buzz and speculation."

The console is mostly white and designed to stand on one end, will feature a wireless controller and also a remote control that appears to handle multimedia functions like audio and video playback, according to various online forums that track consumer technologies.

The console's power button has "skins," customizable appearances that can apparently be added by the user. Other peripheral devices that appeared in some of the shots include a headset and a kind of Web camera. The pictures first appeared prominently on the tech Web site

On Monday afternoon, gaming and technology Web sites including, and Engadget began to publish identical-looking lists with detailed technical specifications for the console.

Among those details were a detachable 20 gigabyte hard drive, support for wireless networking, three 3.2 gigahertz central processors, surround sound and universal support for high-definition video.

The sites also said there would be two tiers of the Xbox Live online gaming service, one free and one with a subscription that would offer enhanced matchmaking and customization features.

Plenty of details remain to be revealed, including when exactly Xbox 360 will ship, what it will cost, what will be included, what games will be available at launch and whether it will be compatible with games for the original Xbox.

It was not clear if all of those questions will be answered on Thursday's MTV broadcast, or even next week at the news conference Microsoft will hold at E3, the annual games industry trade show in Los Angeles.

Microsoft said in early April it would unveil its new console on MTV, a change in tactics in an industry where new hardware has always been revealed at trade shows closed to the public. Microsoft said at the time it wanted to break that mold and drum up public enthusiasm for its new machine.

That Microsoft planned a new console this year was perhaps the worst-kept secret in the industry though, as game publishers have said over the last few months they expect a new console ahead of this year's holiday season.

The original Xbox launched a year after the debut of market leader, Sony Corp's PlayStation 2, and that head start proved invaluable to Sony. Early on in the Xbox's life Microsoft promised it would not be beaten to market with its next console.

Sony is expected to offer some details about the PlayStation 3 at E3 next week, though the console itself is not expected until sometime in 2006.

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  • 3 months later...

Thought I'd bump this up when I saw this on 1up...

The high price of game development means we've been hearing musings the industry was preparing to up the standard price on retail games this coming generation. These talks started taking fruition when publishers started nodding about such suspicions and online retailers started listing games like Perfect Dark Zero at $59.99.

That's not the case, anymore. Could Microsoft be listening to the negative feedback and altering their strategy? Maybe. We don't know for sure just yet, but the fact that games like Perfect Dark Zero, Kameo: Elements of Power, Project Gotham Racing 3 and others have been bumped down to $49.99 at EB Games and GameStop is a good sign.

What hasn't changed, however, are listings for games like Dead or Alive 4, which remain at the original $59.99 price point. That could just be a glitch in the systems, but we'll have to wait and see.

Next-generation's already going to be expensive as is. Let's hope the retailer updates stand and we can all pick up another game this holiday season instead of grumbling over an extra $10. We'll try to have official confirmation from Microsoft soon.


If this is true, the news'll be huge. It would be very nice if the rumor that prices will jump for nex-gen games was wrong. All gamers' pocketbooks could take a deep sigh of relief.

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Just for it's sheer stupidity, I thought I'd share something I saw today...

The one thing we can always count on during a hardware launch are ridiculous bundles from retailers, and the higher price point of Xbox 360 means it's more off-the-wall than ever before.

The "worst" offense comes from GameStop's recently announced bundles. The mother of their bundles, the "Ultimate," will dump a total of $1,199.83 from your wallet. Clearly, that's a wildly affordable number for most people, and 1UP fully expects the Ultimate bundle to come ahead as the clear market leader this holiday season.

Yeah. Okay, so what do you get?

Xbox 360 System

Perfect Dark Zero Collector's Edition

Project Gotham Racing 3

Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

Dead or Alive 4

Call of Duty 2


Quake 4

Tony Hawk's American Wasteland


Madden NFL 06


Xbox 360 Wireless Controller

Xbox 360 Play and Charge Kit

Xbox 360 Rechargeable Battery

Xbox Live 12 Month Card

1 Year Product Replacement Plan

Better start saving!


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I happened to come across this yesterday.

At the end of the Xbox Summit 2005, Sensui disclosed that a total of 37 Japanese publishers are currently making 42 games for the Xbox 360 console. A complete list is below:


• "Call of Duty 2"

• "Tony Hawk's American Wasteland"

• "Quake IV"

• "Gun"

A R C System Works

• "Versus Tactical Action" (working title)


• "A-Train X"

Atari Japan

• "Test Drive Unlimited"


• "Mobile Suit Gundam" (working title)


• "Super Robot Wars" (working title)


• "Biohazard 5 (Resident Evil 5)"

• "Dead Rising"


• Title TBA

D3 Publisher

• "E-D-FX" (working title)

• "Chambara Beauty X" (working title)

Eidos KK

• Title TBA

Electronic Arts

• "FIFA Soccer 2006"

• "NBA Live 2006"

• "Need for Speed Most Wanted"

Idea Factory

• Title TBA


• Title TBA

Kids Station

• Title TBA


• "Dynasty Warriors 5"


• "Winning Eleven" (working title)

• "Rumble Roses XX" (working title)

• "Proyakyu Spirits" (working title)

Marvelous Interactive

• Title TBA


• "Ninety-Nine Nights"

• "Every Party"

• "Project Gotham Racing 3"


• "Frame City Killer"

• "Ridge Racer 6"

• RPG Title TBA

• "Love Football" (working title)



Frontier Groove

• Title TBA


• Title TBA


• "Shutokou Battle" (working title)


• Title TBA

Hudson Soft

• "Far East of Eden Ziria 00Tales from Distant Jipang"


• "Chromehounds" (working title)

SNK Playmore

• "King of Fighters Maximum Impact 2" (working title)


• Title TBA

Square Enix

• "Final Fantasy XI"


• "Zookeeper" (working title)

• "Operation Darkness" (working title)


• "World Airforce" (working title)


• "Dead or Alive 4"

• "Dead or Alive Xtreme 2"

• "Project Progressive"

• "Dead or Alive code: Cronus"

THQ Japan

• "Saints Row"

• "The Outfit"


• "Zoids" (working title)


• Title TBA


• "Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter" (working title)


• Title TBA


• "Wrestle Kingdom"


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