Oculus has always taken a curated approach to VR content, being the first and last word on what VR content can and can’t be offered through their platform. But now the company plans to further tighten its grip on Quest content by imposing a higher quality bar, the company says, to ensure that the headset offers customers rich experiences while raising the likelihood of developers success (for those allowed in).

Each of the three major VR platforms (PSVR, Oculus, and SteamVR) fall in a different place along the ‘openness’ spectrum when it comes to content.

PSVR is the most strict of the three, with a more opaque publishing process and careful selection of which VR content makes it onto the platform.

Oculus falls somewhere in the middle; anyone can submit their games for review, and as long as they meet technical and content guidelines, they can be published.

SteamVR is the most open of the bunch, with the company recently expanding its allowed content scope to pretty much anything, so long as it isn’t illegal or malicious.

For Oculus’ upcoming Quest headset however, the company plans to move further toward the PSVR end of the spectrum; no longer will merely meeting technical and content guidelines be grounds for getting onto the headset—Oculus says they’re now going to vet content by their own impressions of scope and quality.

Oculus revealed the decision this week on its developer blog, saying that they believe that curating higher quality content for Quest is the right move for both customers and developers.

Image courtesy Oculus

The company will now require that hopeful developers provide a “concept document” which should “show us not only how cool their title will be, but also to explain how it will resonate with the Quest audience.” Developers won’t be able to access the app submission process or non-public development resources for Quest unless their concept documents is approved.

In addition to making a great VR headset, we feel a strong responsibility to make the Quest VR content ecosystem successful for both developers and players. The Rift ecosystem has taught us that VR players respond to titles that have polish, substance, and depth, whether they are built by AAA game studios or talented indies. We hope that when players get into their Oculus Quest headset their library showcases the innovation, sophistication, and development talent that exists in VR today, and inspires future developers.

Oculus says that this more quality-focused approach to content gatekeeping is unique to Quest and that it will not impact the submission process for Rift, Oculus Go, or Gear VR.

We’ve set a high bar for content quality on Quest, higher than we’ve ever enforced before, in order to build a platform where everyone has confidence in the quality of the titles they’re buying and developers know that their investments have a strong chance of success.

The shift to more strict content curation sets up Quest to have a significantly more console-like feel than the company’s prior headsets, and their reason for doing so is clear: reduce shovelware and make the good stuff easier to find. But a more strict submission process doesn’t come without potential downsides, especially when allowing room for innovation.

Image courtesy Road to VR

Oculus ran into a notable dilemma in the Rift’s early days. The company was strict about content comfort levels, and for the most part hadn’t allowed any ‘free locomotion’ content onto its store, even though it already had a process for rating app comfort by three different levels: Comfortable, Moderate, and Intense. It seemed that for Oculus, free locomotion content was even too much to qualify for the Intense category.

But the market showed that, when done right, free locomotion can work well, and there’s clear player demand for the kinds of games that it enables. With the success of a pioneering free locomotion game, Onward (2016), Oculus was forced to reevaluate their position and in 2017 announced that the game would be coming to the Oculus store for Rift.

On stage at Connect 4 in 2017, Oculus’ then VP of Content, Jason Rubin, admitted the company’s mistake and made note of the lesson learned. “Indie developers are vitally important to VR. Their creativity, and often risk-taking, pushes the medium forward. And indie developers like [the developer of Onward] keep us on the edge of our seats waiting to see what’s next,” he said.

Following the release of Onward on the Rift, Oculus Studios began embracing more ambitious locomotion mechanics, with titles like Marvel Powers United VR (2018) using mechanics similar to free locomotion by default.

SEE ALSO
Oculus Quest Hands-on and Tech Details

With the new, stricter rules for content quality on Quest, it seems likely that similar scenarios could play out—with Oculus rejecting content that doesn’t fit its pre-existing notions of what constitutes a quality VR game, only to have potentially innovative ideas taken first to other platforms (or possibly to one of the company’s other headsets). On the other hand, the more tightly curated approach means that Quest owners are likely to see overall higher quality content that hopefully keeps them happy and coming back to the headset for more.

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  • Brian Burgess

    The dichotomy between Mobile VR and PCVR is coming into view, which is looking very much like the dichomoty that exists between PC Flat Gaming and Console Flat Gaming. PCVR will remain the cutting edge, and the platform in which new gameplay concepts, raw graphical power and hardware are developed and then trickled down to Console VR/Mobile VR. Of course, this dichotomy will potentially be disrupted once 5G streaming is standardized and implemented.

  • JesuSaveSouls
    • Hivemind9000

      Please explain

  • carlos rios

    nice. i hate when consoles fill their store with cheap games that should basically be free on android.

    the nintendo switch has this problem, microsoft was pushing indie games too much too.

    i would rather have 25 games that are must haves, that you can play for hours then 10000 games that are a waste of time and money.

    • Andrew Jakobs

      But maybe the 25 games that you think are must haves, are 25 games i think are just total crap. So many users, so many different tastes. And unless the panel for approving a design is very mixed, it is possible that to few diversity is shown. I’d rather have a 1000 games in store to choose from and have a usersrating system.

      • carlos rios

        no. im talking about buying AAA title well made polished games. sure, some are arcade style. or make 2 stores. “oculus premium games” and “everything else”.

        if a game is good enough, it could move to the premium side. the problem with the ouya was having those 1000s games you want, but not even having 5 that could be considered system sellers.

        i love my switch. there might be 100s of games in its store. but lets be honest, there might be only 10 that every switch owner should buy.
        mario odyssey
        donkey kong
        mario party
        zelda
        mario kart
        maybes:
        mario aces
        mario rabbids
        bayonetta
        xenoblade
        splatoon
        overcooked
        and there might be like 5 – 10 other games that are mention-able or good enough to get on sale.

        luckily it only takes that top half of the list to make me buy the console. but it will take that top of of the list growing for me to keep it. it sucks when the store gets filled with 1000s of games no where near the quality of the ones listed above.

        • Hivemind9000

          Yeah, well, you know, that’s just like uh… your opinion, man.

          • carlos rios

            no one likes bad games. its about quality, not quantity.

          • Andrew Jakobs

            Problem is that quality is also just something in the eye of the beholder, especially when it comes to graphics. Yes we all agree that bugridden games aren’t considered quality, but on the part of graphics you cannot say the same, to me Minecraft doesn’t fall in the category of quality games due to it’s awful graphics (and for me boring ‘gameplay’), but for others it’s a very excellent game and the might think it’s better than red dead 2.. (which I think looks excellent and seems like a great game).

        • Jistuce

          I find most AAA games to be a waste of time and money. The cost of development means developers are very unwilling to experiment. I’d rather a new game with a few warts than yet another rehash of the same tired old game.

          • Eric McFadden

            Agreed. I’ve played mostly indie games this year, and I’ve never been more into gaming. AAA games feel more hollow than ever to me.

        • Andrew Jakobs

          Right, and most of the games you mention I DON’T consider as being great games every switch owner should buy. So you see, tastes are different and quality is in the eye of the beholder. As I said, I’d rather have 1000 games to choose from (from whatever quality) than only 25 which are selected by a small panel. let me be the judge myself, and let those 25 be in a special section ‘panels selection’ or something like that..

          • carlos rios

            fine. i hope oculus doesnt help developers make any good games. are you happy.

          • Andrew Jakobs

            oh please, how is Oculus helping developers make good games? What makes a good game? Because if you know than you could make a lot of money, because even the big publishing companies who have big departments to research it have trouble knowing what makes a good game…..

          • carlos rios

            theyre not helping besides setting guidelines and goals for them. pushing them to make better games. meet a certain criteria before you think youll get into the store. i like that. should a secondary store exist for every other game, sure, that could work. but lets keep the main store cleaned up with quality content that meets certain expectations (quality control).

            if a game is worthy it can be moved over from the “secondary” store. if people would like, they can side load or use that secondary store. i like that idea. but to fill a store with as many games a possible, with no filters/control/guidelines…. thats just a mess.

            cool the ouya was open for everyone to make a game on it. neat. too bad no games existed that kept that platform alive.

            i get you have an eclectic taste for games, thats cool for you. but if everyone had your taste. then the games i mentioned above wouldn’t be the top sellers, would they? they wouldnt be systems sellers. just because you and others like the random games doesnt mean all games should be allowed to flood the store? i cant be crazy, can i?

            either way. i guess im over this convo. my only point is. i agree with this article. i could be wrong about it being good for oculus. but i still agree with what they are trying to do. like someone mentioned, if a platform is big enough people always find a way to get games onto it.

    • ComfyWolf

      Speak for yourself, I happen to like a lot of the games in the Switch store. I’m surprised your example of a store filled with cheap games was the Switch, instead of something like Steam which has thousands of cheap asset flips, broken games, scams, etc. The Switch happens to have a quality standard, most games released on it are quality indie games, just because you aren’t interested in them doesn’t make them not good. On the other hand, many AAA games launch unfinished and bug-ridden, should those not be allowed onto consoles, since my opinion is that an unfinished buggy game is not a quality game.

      • carlos rios

        thank you, you proved my point. like steam, filled with trash.

        and you agree, you wish platforms only let finished products onto their systems, not buggy messes? right? cool someone who knows what they are saying!

        • Hivemind9000

          One wo/mans trash is another wo/mans treasure. Who should decide which is which – Zuck or the community at large?

          (and Steam has plenty of ways for filtering out the garbage – curators, reviews, not jumping on the early access hype train)

          • carlos rios

            community at large… let them filter it out on a secondary store front. everyone acts like 1 guy is sitting there choosing what gets on. from what it seems, thats not how it works. all they are asking is you meet certain criteria, polished games shouldn’t have a problem. games that bring something new to the players, shouldn’t have a problem. good games (games i think are good, games you think are good), shouldn’t have a problem.

            they just dont want piles of trash. how does that not make sense to everyone. make a good game, it gets in. make a crappy clone of a game, or an unfinished game, and it’ll get denied. perfect!

          • Hivemind9000

            In an ideal world, yes that’s exactly what would happen – but I think you’re confusing what you would like, with what Oculus/Facebook have stated they would do.

            Did you notice that their policy is to approve game ideas in advance – the developer has to send them a “concept document” and explain why it will resonate with their audience? That’s not a quality policy, that’s a censorship policy. Facebook are deciding whether your new innovative idea has merit, not the audience – quality/execution would only be evaluated well after the fact.

            It’s not going to necessarily be a bad thing, it just means that the Quest will only ever have a subset of the latest quality, innovative games and experiences that will be available for VR. Hopefully there will be a few competitors to Quest that will be somewhat more open (even if they do have a quality filter). If there are… eventually – they will get my money, not Oculus.

          • carlos rios

            i like their plan. i remember when copies of games would flood the android store right after 1 got popular. how annoying.

            like mentioned above. with a strong enough community im sure other games will find their way onto the system (side loading). im just glad the main store will remain clean.

            exactly. let the market show what it wants. if this hurts oculus, they will obviously open their doors. if it doesnt hurt them, it means there is potentially a better experience with the store for users.

            i would also like to add, its most likely not a single person making the call on each game. im sure the team is filled with many people with different preferences. im sure some of them love the same games you guys love that i think are a waste of money.

      • carlos rios

        i would also like to add, that steam is at an entirely different level then oculus. the oculus store is still in its early stages. its still developing. i hope 1 day that the oculus store could be as large as steams. but thats 10+ years away. i hope that in 10 years the oculus store is filled with 1000s of quality games!

  • Arcticu Kitsu

    Now if only they could release proper anti-tangling cables for their headsets their POV could be fully supported. Those Oculus Rift cables tangle like mad. It’s honestly interesting to see how we’re learning how to handle VR games though with Oculus taking a stricter route for their Quest. Thankfully the Rift shall continue to be the trailblazer by being able to play every game given to it. Even by even more indie developers made by people at home (not asset flips) being more indie than indie developers.

    Thankfully we still have cool games to play on the higher quality side of things.

  • The Mogget

    I have mixed feelings. I understand the desire to own the world, to have your own ecosystem. Nintendo controls the hardware AND the software, just like Apple and all those guys. They have a controlled image, and a very loyal fanbase.

    On the opposite end we have the PC gamer platform, where steam runs on any PC and just about any peripheral and is really open for games. That is a big and robust community, and openness has its benefits. You can get your favorite game on your favorite hardware and no one has to ‘port’ anything and the library is huge. Combine that with a good rating and search system, and like Amazon the good stuff bubbles to the top. I don’t ever feel like I am combing through junk games on Steam.

    I am sure the Oculus curation will result in higher quality of content, but I am not sure I need to be protected from low level games. I know what I am buying. I am not so sure I like Oculus and HTC both trying to make their own platforms to compete with Steam, and having ‘exclusive’ titles and follow the Playstation VR route. I hate buying a system to get the game library I want. I hate that some of the more obscure racing simulators and things will be slow to port out to all the different platforms when they are already on steam. So much more complicated with no benefit.

    • wheeler

      I suspect that, just as with flat gaming before, users preferring more curated platforms and high stability will naturally gravitate toward consoles. It’s just that right now we’re in this weird interim where the console offering for VR (PSVR) is pretty limited (and of course Quest will be very limited as well) so we have an influx of a lot of console gamers. But the next generation of console VR hardware will be quite good. These users will see their friends playing some high profile exclusive that they can’t pass up and find themselves using their PCVR system less and less. People that want more options, modding, niche content, and bleeding edge hardware (but don’t mind hacking around a bit) will stick to the PC as before.

      I suspect this is why you have so many VR gamers complaining about “all of the crap” on Steam. They are from the console world and have misaligned expectations about the responsibilities of the platform. I’m not saying there aren’t plenty of unity asset flips and deceptively marketed games on Steam, but the expectation for PC gamers has always been that you need to do your own research before buying something–not depend on the platform holder to create a sanitized, “one size fits all”-ish offering for you. And the vast majority of the so called “crap” out there is actually just niche content.

      E.g. I think Standout and War Dust are crap and won’t play them, but other people seem to genuinely love them. Sure, these users will forget that these two games ever existed the moment a more ambitious battle royale or battlefield VR game comes out, but the fact that there are some people enjoying themselves with the content *now*–even if they’re a minority–is only a good thing. The cost of this is just that other gamers actually have to do their own research before purchasing.

      • The Mogget

        but the expectation for PC gamers has always been that you need to do your own research before buying something…. And the vast majority of the so called “crap” out there is actually just niche content.

        Well said.

  • So no crazy Cabbibo weirdness on the Quest then.

    Or any of the other strange, bizarre and wonderful things that makes VR such a fascinating medium.

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  • Hivemind9000

    I guess as long as you’re happy with Zuck telling what’s cool and what isn’t (he’s such a snappy dresser, so he MUST know), then you’ll be happy inside Oculus’s walled garden. I prefer to make my own decisions, so I guess it’ll be a hard pass on the Quest.

    • WyrdestGeek

      I’m not “happy” about the Zuck controlling any aspect of my life.

      But I’m gambling on the possibility that Quest will succeed so thoroughly that a small but vibrant community of jailbreaking hackers, and off-label OSVR-ish generic copies od Quest devices will spring up around it within the first year or so.

      Of course, I could be totally wrong about that, but if I am I won’t have really lost much so it’s all good.

      • Eric McFadden

        Same here. We’re so close to having VR reach that tipping point to push it into mainstream. Once it reaches that point, it won’t really matter who got there first, because everyone will be jumping on that bandwagon. If facebook gets there first, they’ll have a head start, but competition should either keep them in check or render them irrelevant.

  • sfmike

    On the whole I like the idea of limiting shovel ware that can turn non-fanatic VR enthusiasts quickly off. Still need to not halt innovation.

  • WyrdestGeek

    This does not concern me because
    A ) in the beginning, the sacrifice of freedom of choice is (hopefully) balanced by the wider adoption as VR newbie after newbie becomes a VR convert after they have satisfying experience after experience.
    B ) if Quest *does* turn out to be the “killer app” thing that finally pushes VR to truly mainstream adoption, then rest assured: clones and copies that are more open *will* come out– as well as hacks and mods that allow Quest devices to access unapproved app stores.

    And if, OTOH, it’s still not time for mainstream VR adoption, then all of Oculus-Facebook’s lockdowns will be irrelevant along with the Quest itself.

    The glass looks 3/4 full to me. Facebook is the one taking on a lot or risk here, not me.

  • Ted Joseph

    This is a good idea. A more strict quality control requirement will ensure developers work harder to provide better products.

    • Or we use support a platform that doesn’t expect us to jump through hoops.

  • kontis

    This has NOTHING to do with ensuring quality. They could do that on their store and still allow proper sideloading, like on android phones.

    https://www.reddit.com/r/oculus/comments/avzn8f/hey_oculus_you_could_make_oculus_stores_curation/

    • benz145

      If they don’t I expect that people will quickly seek ways to “jailbreak” Quest.

    • Hivemind9000

      You’re right – it’s a censorship policy. They want to approve ideas in advance from a “concept document”. Knowing the way Facebook works, they will have some sort of policy document as their “cool” filter, probably written by lawyers, based on VR games that came out 12-18 months ago. That’s a death knell for innovation on such a nascent platform that VR is presently.

  • BeingHealthyandFit

    You guys are not getting it. You are thinking in terms of PC … You gotta think of the QUEST as a console, so thats why they are taking the Nintendo approach.

  • Dara

    Good! Some of you might not know, but the lack of quality control and a plethora of gaming consoles was behind a crash of the video game industry back in 1983. With the load of VR garbage available on Steam currently and the ongoing development of several new headsets, the same thing is bound to happen with VR. I saw in a comment somebody mentioning Nintendo, they are the one who saved the game industry by… controlling the games quality!!! I have nothing against innovation and small developers, but people can already waste their time playing rubbish on their mobile phones and I think we can all agree we didn’t pay 500+ to play Angry Bird in 3D. So Oculus or not, they should ALL be more strict about content and quality and focus more on content then new hardware.

    • Blaexe

      In general I agree with you, but…

      “I think we can all agree we didn’t pay 500+ to play Angry Bird in 3D.”

      That’s funny, because Angry Birds is great in VR.

  • I hope that they will loosen these constraints some months after the Quest’s launch

  • towblerone

    Quest is all I’m excited for in regards to VR. Pre-ordering three of them at launch.

  • Mac

    As long as they are basing their decision based on quality and market fit rather than preventing competition for their Oculus Studio titles. I think the Nintendo Switch has a pretty good balance that they should strive to mimic.