The Ouya Android-based game console hits retail today.
However the company has been saying for quite some time that they'd continue to improve the device, and they've made good on the promise through a series of firmware updates. My Ouya downloaded the most recent one yesterday afternoon, in fact.
Each update makes the console a little better. The Discovery screen (store front, basically) is a vast improvement over how it used to be, showing a larger numbers of titles and showing them faster (the original Discover screen was pretty laggy) and letting you queue up multiple game downloads rather than doing them one by one.
Download progress is shown right there on the screen, with a progress bar right on the tile of the game. And once a game is downloaded it is automatically installed and made ready to play. Originally that was a two step process.
There are a lot of other issues that have been improved. Supposedly there'll be prepaid currency cards available for people who don't want to attach a credit card to their Ouya account. There are rudimentary parental controls in there now (a passcode, basically) though the company plans to continue to improve that system. And you can finally turn the thing off from the controller.
Of course the hardware doesn't matter if the games aren't any good. While I feel like the Ouya library is continually improving, it's still a definite weak point (though I'm hoping we'll see some big launches today); there are still a lot of pretty rough 8-bit style games quickly put together by small teams in the library and you're going to have to open a lot of oysters to find the pearls in there. The good news is that every game (and Ouya claims on their website that there are 168 games in there) has a free component so you can sample them all before spending a dime.
Ouya CEO Julie Urhman did an interview with Polygon yesterday that's worth reading if you're on the fence and want to get an idea of what direction the company is headed in. For instance there are really no social elements (Friend lists, leaderboards, etc) on the Ouya now and adding these features is a pretty big priority for the company.
So should you buy an Ouya today? I think it really depends on how adventurous you are. If you want a game system with a nicely curated list of highly polished games then no, skip the Ouya for now. But if you're the type of gamer who is interested to see what kinds of crazy things Indie game developers can come up with, then you'll probably get your $100 worth of enjoyment out of it.
I can't imagine the Ouya is going to get any worse and I suspect it'll continue to improve over the next few months as more and more games get finished and hit the Discover store. What we're seeing there now are by definition pretty quick projects; the Ouya didn't exist a year ago. The smart money for most games is probably to give it until the end of summer to see how the library is doing then.
But honestly I don't regret the $100 I spent on mine. For now it's a gateway to a lot of quirky titles, and I like quirky.
Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.