Since its launch last year, Oculus has kept a close eye on the software library on the Quest wireless headset, adopting a “quality approach” to app approval. Today, Oculus has promised to relax that control with a new app distribution pad that will roll out early next year.
In a blog post today, Oculus says its console-style approach to managing Quest has been a success, selling over $100 million worth of Quest content in its first year. That same tight curation will still apply to Quest’s main store in the future.
But Oculus now says it will also add “a new way for developers to distribute Quest apps” in early 2021. With this new channel, “developers will be able to share their apps with anyone with a quest, without having to be accepted into the Oculus Store, and without the need for sideloading,” the company writes.
Currently, adding unapproved apps to a Quest headset requires the device to run in a less secure “Developer” mode and use a PC tool like SideQuest to transfer the necessary files. Oculus isn’t sharing a lot of details about its new app distribution method, but the process sounds like it will be more streamlined for end users looking for a wider range of VR software.
While Quest apps in this new channel are still required to comply with Oculus’ general content policies (e.g., no pornography, no hate speech, no real money gambling, etc.), Oculus writes that “apps distributed through this new channel , are not held to the same technical standards as official Oculus Store apps.” That makes it ideal for developers who want to “share their apps as widely as possible” [or] test applications early and distribute to specific users.”
Oculus’ move comes as Apple faces its own controversy and potential antitrust investigations over overly tight control of its iOS App Store.
In addition to the expansion for Quest software, Oculus today also announced the end of support for its older Oculus Go hardware. The company now lists the Go headset as “no longer available” on its official website, and developers will no longer be able to submit new Go apps or updates to Oculus after December 4.
The standalone Go headset — self-built as a replacement for the cellphone-based Gear VR line — was the last Oculus product to not support hand-tracking controllers or head-tracking movement with six degrees of freedom. Doing away with that hardware makes sense for a company trying to make a clear break from the more limited, less capable hardware of the past.
At the same time, the great value Go (just $149 for a 32GB version) was a great entry-level headset for users who wanted a VR experience that was still a step beyond something like Google Cardboard. Cost-focused use cases like education, training, and museums will likely be forced to invest in the $400 Oculus Quest, even if they don’t need the expanded feature set.
List image by Sam Machkovech