Derrik J. Lang

LAS VEGAS: Inside the massive complex on the Las Vegas Strip that houses the glitzy Venetian casino and Sands convention center, amid a soundscape of conflicting noises, thousands of players mashed buttons while staring intently at flickering screens.

They were not playing slots or video poker. No, they were trying their hand at upcoming games such as Titan­fall and Ryse.

This is the GameStop Expo. The world’s largest video game retailer first organized the gathering of its most passionate customers last year during its annual meeting of store managers. While the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles is no longer open to the public, the GameStop Expo offers everyday gamers a chance to preview upcoming titles and hardware.

The expo’s more than 5,000 attendees waited in snaking lines inside a cavernous Sands Expo hall this week to test-drive Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4, the next-generation systems due out this November. Call of Duty: Ghosts, Titanfall, Ryse: Son of Rome and Battlefield 4 were among the most popular games on display.

“I’m here to see and play all the next-gen consoles and games for myself,” Shawn Smoak, 22, a self-professed “Sony fanboy,” said while waiting to try out Titanfall. “You can read everything you possibly can about them online, but until you actually get your hands on the controller, you don’t really know anything. That’s what this is all about.”

Along with providing glimpses of such upcoming games as Batman: Arkham Origins and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, the expo also included panels, giveaways, photo booths, costume contests and free chocolate ice cream dispensed from a truck promoting the South Park: The Stick of Truth game.

The event was just part of GameStop’s purpose in Vegas.

In meeting rooms at the Venetian casino and Sands convention center, more than 5,000 managers from the company’s nearly 4,500 stores in the U.S. spent three days learning how to sell new games and hardware to customers like those at its expo. The retailer boasts about 25 million members in its PowerUp Rewards program.