The Ouya journey, according to founder Julie Uhrman, will never have a firm conclusion. But, we'd say having retail units enter production and shipping to mega stores like Game Stop and Best Buy represents at least the culmination of this particular story arc. With only a few weeks to go before the retail launch, the company brought the final console, controller and packaging to E3 for a press tour. The console itself is unchanged from the version that shipped to Kickstarter backers, except that it wont have contributor names etched on the side. The final tweaks heading into production have focused on the controller and the software. Visually the gamepad is exactly the same, but a number of small changes have be made to the various components to address feedback from early adopters and reviewers. The holes around the four face buttons have been widened to prevent them from sticking and, no matter how hard we tried, we could not get the O, U, Y or A to get wedged under the face plate. The right thumb stick also had a tendency to get caught on early versions of the controller, thanks to a small amount of glue that leaked into the area. That issue has supposedly been resolved, and in our time with the production model we had no problems with the analog stick.
The improvements to the gamepad are huge, but perhaps the most welcome news is that the UI has been cleaned up and sped up. While not exactly smooth as butter, the various interface elements loaded much quicker than they did on our review unit. Much of the perceived lag between input and action also appears to have been resolved. While we didn't get a chance to put any serious pressure on the console, there was no noticeable delay while navigating the menus and You Don't Know Jack registered our answers instantaneously. Of course, Uhrman is the first to admit there is still work to be done. She hopes that the company will be able to slap an additional layer of polish on the software before launch day arrives. Our issue with entries in the shop not showing prices have not been addressed, but there's a chance it never will. Uhrman pointed out that all games are free to try, and her view is that slapping a dollar amount on a title will scare users off from even downloading the free demo.
Our latest experience with the Android-based gaming device has us feeling optimistic. While there's certainly work left to be done, not the least of which is convincing consumers this is the console they need, it's obvious that the company is taking customer feedback seriously. And that's not something most companies can brag about. We'll definitely have some more fully fleshed impressions to share when we get to spend more time with the retail version of the Ouya, which is hitting shelves on June 25th.
Zach Honig contributed to this report.