It used to a lot harder to play unreleased games. Only a few years ago, your only opportunity to try the latest Super Smash Bros. or Call of Duty before release would be the massive E3 expo or, if you were lucky, a publisher’s special event. But with the rise of gaming-specific expos such as PAX and a broadening focus of Comic-Cons in both San Diego and New York, previewing upcoming games is becoming easier. GameStop has thrown its hat into the ring as well with GameStop Expo, a conference that began as an opportunity for managers to preview the Fall lineup, but has since evolved into a full-fledged convention of its own. 2012 marked its debut as a public expo in San Antonio before moving to Las Vegas last year and continuing westward for this year’s event in Anaheim, CA. We took a trip down to the Anaheim Convention Center to play some games and see the sights of Expo 2014, all of which can be found in the 40+ photo gallery below.
What makes GameStop Expo so unique is that it has all the perks of a major expo without any of the congestion that normally comes with it. Spread across 300,000 square feet were 80 exhibitors, including the big three of Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft, along with literally a who’s who of third parties including Activision, EA, Ubisoft, Capcom, 2K, and WB Games. And with them came some of the biggest games of this year and next. Nintendo showed off the likes of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U/3DS, Hyrule Warriors, Bayonetta 2, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, and NES Remix Pack, along with select 3DS titles such as Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, and Persona Q. Meanwhile, demos of other major releases such as Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Evolve, Dying Light, Sunset Overdrive, LittleBigPlanet 3, Far Cry 4, Disney Infinity 2.0, Sonic Boom, and Mortal Kombat X were in ample supply around the show floor.
None of these games required long waits, either. Thanks in part to GameStop Expo’s relatively low profile, as well as the fact that it was held on a Wednesday opposed to a weekend, no booth was too crowded and no line was too long. Yet the activity in each booth matched that of expos much larger. There were signings with the likes of WWE wrestler Seth Rollins, video game voice actor Nolan North, Spawn artist Todd McFarlane, and No Man’s Sky co-creator Sean Murray. There were bountiful amounts of freebies, ranging from posters and shirts to Pokemon Rumble U figurines and full game downloads of titles like Red Faction Collection. There was a live Twitch broadcast with game demonstrations from publishers and tournament play. Oh, and did we mention that Ubisoft let attendees put on giant animal costumes and wrestle each other?
Simply put, GameStop Expo had a lot to offer and in many ways felt like a miniature E3. See for yourself with the gallery below, which includes Nintendo’s full setup, a replica of Batman Arkham Knight’s Batmobile, an unexpected appearance from Sackboy, and Ubisoft’s inexplicable animal wrestling.