Since the Christmas schedules are crammed with big news titles squaring up for a fight of Harryhausen proportions, the third quarter is closing to the sound of decks being cleared. The year’s poor sellers are being dumped onto high street concessions, while last year’s Burnout, Lord of the Rings and Pro-Evolution Football titles are yours for half price in discount ranges. Smaller and less certain winter hits such as Zone of Enders 2 and Mace Griffin – Bounty Hunter are being pushed out now too, a little too early to hold their attraction into December. These titles can depreciate quickly – acquire at your own risk.

The most sensational price slash, if it happens, will be to the Gamecube itself, with Microsoft tipped to follow. Prices as low as seventy pounds have been mentioned – if there’s an announcement to be made, we’ll have heard it by the end of the month.

Gamers are more than well-served with sci-fi at the moment, which is just as well, since they are, on the whole, demographically attuned to it. Jedi Knight – Jedi Academy pleasantly revives the Dark Forces magic on PC, and persistent multi-player RPG Star Wars Galaxies is bullying newbies with the best of them, although a transatlantic connection is required for the time being. Geekier still comes Tron 2.0, which successfully translates the hand-painted and workstation graphics of the 1982 movie into the real deal. Since the original was not a major hit, its fan base must surely be limited to thirtyish men with a fondness for video games. How fortuitous.

Franchise add-ons have a special value for seasonal gift givers, as publishers know too well for our good. Choosing a present for a gamer can be a puzzling task for outsiders – but more of the game they’ve been obsessed with all year? That’s a banker all round for festive cheer! And so on Friday we will be blessed with Sim City 4 – Rush Hour. Ker-ching, EA.

Surprisingly few releases have graced the Game Boy Advance recently, given that the software comfortably outsells that for its console stable-mate. Plenty of titles are set for the coming week, but for now the charts remain in the thrall of Pok’mon, who have by all accounts found their platonic form as cast in Sapphire and Ruby. It is more of the same, but much more, and as well done as ever – fans amongst the contributors to this website are thrilled.

PlayStation 2 has rival Yu-Gi-Oh – Duelists of the Roses out on Friday – its historical bent and terrifying learning curve may keep the mass market at bay, but my guess is that it will be a darling of tomorrow’s retro scene nonetheless.

There are many more titles due this weekend than have been mentioned here, but none seem likely to threaten SoulCalibur II‘s assault on the All Formats chart. Although there has been some grumbling about the slightly lazy European conversion, most of the advance press has been embarrassingly flattering, and in a week crowded with welterweights it’s as good a bet as any.