There was no change at the top of the UK chart this week, as the 700,000-selling Need For Speed: Underground stayed firmly ahead of the GTA Double Pack at number two and the half million-selling Simpsons: Hit & Run at number three.
In fact, there top 10 was almost exactly the same as last week, with EA once again proving its commercial superiority with no fewer than six titles figuring, including the best-selling game of 2003, FIFA 2004 (number four), Return Of The King (number five), The Sims: Bustin' Out (number seven), MOH: Rising Sun (number eight) and Tiger Woods (number ten).
As if to compound the fact that no new games of any significance are being released, there was only minor movement in the rest of the chart. Vivendi/Sierra's The Hobbit finally made it into the Full Price chart at number 39, and in the All Prices listings there were a few re-entries spurred on by discounting, such as Nightfire (number 32), The Getaway (number 39), and Conflict: Desert Storm II (number 40).
In terms of significant movement, Hitman 2 continued its budget-led revival, up eight places to number 11, and took the top slot in the budget chart, while other aging titles such as Crash Bandicoot and the Wrath Of Cortex (number 18), Medal Of Honor: Frontline (number 20), The Two Towers (number 21), Soul Calibur II (number 22) and Splinter Cell (number 24) sold well again last week. In fact, with no fewer than 11 budget priced titles (Â£16.99 or less) in the All Formats Top 40, it would appear that lower priced titles are proving more popular than ever.
Looking at the Full Price Top 40, two GameCube exclusive titles figure, with Mario Kart: Double Dash!! hanging on at number 31 despite being the top-selling Cube title, while Star Wars Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike is just behind at number 35. The Xbox fares even worse, with just one exclusive representative at number 25 with Project Gotham Racing 2. The PS2, predictably, trumps the lot, headed up by EyeToy at number 13, Manhunt at number 18, SmackDown 5 at number 23, and Ratchet & Clank 2 at number 40, along with numerous console exclusives such as Prince Of Persia and PES 3.
The GameCube Top 20 showed little change on last week, with Soul Calibur II shooting back up to number four, and Sonic Adventure 2 re-entering at number 14. A quarter of the titles in the chart came from EA, but the nation's top game is currently only at number 13 in the Cube chart, curiously, despite being number one on the PS2 and number three on Xbox. Almost a third of the titles were first party titles - and mainly Player's Choice ones at that.
Number one on Xbox, meanwhile, was the GTA Double Pack for the second week running, while the format generally enjoyed the effects of some rampant discounting of first party flops, with the circa 20,000-selling Counter-Strike suddenly shooting up to number seven, and the excruciatingly badly selling Links 2004 finally breaching the Top 20 at number 20.
Unsurprisingly, the Top 20 PS2 chart almost mirrored the overall All Formats chart, illustrating that the huge proportion of games sales - full stop - are currently weighted massively towards the Sony format. Every single PS2 Top 20 Full Price game featured in the Top 40, and ten of the Top 20 PS2 Budget titles.
Although we're now in the fourth week of 2004 already, there's still little sign of any new releases troubling the charts. Most publishers appear to be adopting the curious strategy of waiting until January 30th before they release anything at all. Gathering's long awaited PS2 version of Mafia looks to be the first big title of the year, assuming it meets its latest Jan 30th target, but apart from that there's Arc: Twilight of Spirits from Sony, and not a whole lot else until February 6th when there's a huge swathe of new releases.