Facebook announced back in June that it planned to offer developers a way to distribute Oculus Quest apps outside of the official, curated, Quest store. Now the company indicates it has “high confidence” that the feature will be deployed in Q1, 2021.

Since the launch of Oculus Quest, Facebook has opted to ‘curate’ the Quest store by selectively permitting apps based on factors like quality, presentation, and scope. After backlash from some developers, and the burgeoning Quest ‘sideloading’ platform SideQuest, Facebook said it would offer an official avenue for developers to distribute their apps outside of the Quest store.

New Quest Distribution Path

In a video posted by the official Oculus Developers page on Facebook, Clorama Dorvilias, product manager at Facebook Reality Labs, explained that Oculus had added a new ‘Roadmap’ section to the developer website which highlights upcoming development features.

In previewing the roadmap, Dorvilias showed that the “New Quest Distribution Path” feature is expected in Q1, 2021. The company had previously said the feature was expected in “early 2021,” and now indicates “high confidence” that it will be available within Q1.

“Developers will have a way to distribute applications to anyone without having to be accepted in the Oculus Store and without sideloading,” the roadmap description says. “Applications will have to meet the obligations of the Oculus Content Policy, but won’t be held to the same technical standards as official Oculus Store Apps.”

Additionally, the roadmap indicated that a beta version of the feature would be made available to select developers in December, before the wider release in Q1, 2021.

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Other items indicated on the developer roadmap for December: OpenXR support in UE4, a keyboard overlay for native Android apps, Unity debug symbol upload for OVR Platform Tool, crash analytics in the Developer Dashboard, and Visual Studio code debugging for UE4 and native VR apps.

Unlisted Apps & Keys

Oculus hasn’t offered much detail about how the Quest non-store distribution channel will work, or what, if any, limitations it will include beyond the need to comply with the Oculus Content Policy.

One approach, hinted by Oculus earlier this year, would be to have ‘unlisted’ application pages that can’t be found through the official Quest store, but which can be linked by URL, allowing developers to point users to the application page through a direct link. A parallel approach could be to allow developers to generate and manage ‘game keys’—which could be given away or sold through any channel of the developer’s choosing—which users would redeem through their Oculus app. The latter is already possible, in fact, but only available to applications which have been approved for distribution on the official Quest store.

The Cut

One big unanswered question about the non-store distribution channel for Quest is whether or not developers will be allowed to charge for applications distributed this way and, if so, whether or not Facebook will expect to take its usual 30% cut of the sale.

App stores generally justify taking a portion of app sales because they connect developers with customers by providing a marketplace and provide promotion within that marketplace. But ‘unlisted’ apps wouldn’t see any of those benefits because they wouldn’t appear in the official store, leaving it up to the developer to seek out customers directly.

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Side Hustle

It also remains to be seen what this official non-store distribution channel will mean for SideQuest, which has become the defacto non-store distribution channel for Quest via sideloading. Depending upon the structure of Oculus’ approach, SideQuest could become a convenient platform for developers to list their unlisted apps for ‘store-like’ discovery by its community of users. But if Facebook doesn’t want to play nice, they could put policies in place to prevent this.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • LoneWuff326

    yo it seems like there trying to replace sideQuest, or trying to make a ripoff version

    • Cix

      exactly this

    • VR5

      No. SideQuest will still be important as a storefront for users to discover apps. It will just become easier to get the apps on people’s devices and receive automatic updates. Win-win for all parties involved.

      I as a dev am welcoming this distribution method and from what I’ve seen, so are the people at SideQuest.

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    • wowgivemeabreak

      I believe I saw the main SideQuest guy say they have been in contact with Oculus over this. If so, it sounds like they are part of it or are going to at least get money (perhaps SideQuest is kind of being acquired and then tweaked by Oculus to fit their store layout) rather than a full blown ripoff. I’m for this new store if the SideQuest guys get compensated for it. I’m not for it if they are ripping them off like they seem to have done to the YUR guys (Cix here)

    • sfmike

      Bullying and anti-competitive actions are the beating heart of American corporate predatory capitalism and sadly any moves toward rules to benefit the consumer are now seen by half the country as “socialism/communism.”

      • Cix

        We can’t have nice things, because the FAANG don’t give the new guys a shot anymore. They are now eaten before they can grow, by watching platform data.

  • Ad

    This will probably just be a way to get apps in a beta pipeline for the official store, marginalize sidequest so people stop enabling developer access, and get that 30%. It would be hilarious if Valve did something like Steam Play with sidequest, or letting developers stick the apk of their game with a key as a free DLC of their steam version. There are 3D printing files sold on steam so it could be possible, and Steam has a built in CD key system.

    • Cix

      yep, this is designed to kill sidequest over time

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    • Yes, this way the sideloading stuff won’t be a free zone anymore, and Facebook will have more control on the unofficial apps. I wonder what porn apps will do, considering that they won’t be allowed by the Facebook policies

      • Ad

        Or emulators, Dr Beef, and ShadowVR.

  • wowgivemeabreak

    Clorama….now that’s a name I have never seen or heard of in my 42 years of life.

    I’m hoping this new store is being done with the SideQuest guys rather than just ripping them off. Pretty sure I read a comment from the main SQ guy that implied they are working with Oculus on this which i imagine would mean they are being compensated.

    • Cix

      Facebook doesn’t help these 3rd party devs. They scare them into working together then discard them.

  • Sadly I het the feeling it will be the end for Sidequest – the best App on Quest. I deeply hope it doesn’t though.

  • Amni3D

    I don’t imagine they’ll try to be better than Sidequest. The plan is obviously to eventually slap them with a DMCA if this doesn’t successfully faze them out, alongside the new gates on making a developer account to sideload.

    Also, this new storefront achieves nothing of value to the user Sidequest couldn’t do. AMD Relive and VD SteamVR would likely still get pulled. Sidequest was doing perfectly fine and doesn’t need to be made “obsolete” for any reason outside of Facebook’s wishes.

  • Andrew Jakobs

    It’s a good thing I guess, having an extra official ‘section’ with everything else. And the good games/apps will go the the regular Oculus store when it gets succesful.

  • sebrk

    Pathetic Facebook trying to kill competition. It would still require to give all your data to Facebook. Hard pass.

  • Regarding the last paragraph, SideQuest people keep saying that they work together with Oculus and they will still collaborate with this new distribution model. They even say that they are happier with this approach

    • Cix

      Not quite the truth here. There is the political response, and the reality of the situation. Who you think holds the keys in that dynamic?