SideQuest is an unofficial app store for Facebook’s Oculus Quest headset which offers an avenue for developers to distribute apps without being subject to Oculus’ approval process. The team behind the project has raised $650,000 in seed investment, including funding from departed Oculus founder Palmer Luckey.
Despite being pushed out of Facebook in 2017 and moving into the defense sector, Oculus founder Palmer Luckey has continued to keep a close eye on the VR space and support projects that align with his vision for VR.
TechCrunch today reported that Luckey was among several investors that participated in a $650,000 seed investment in SideQuest. The bulk of the investment ($500,000) comes from BoostVC, a startup accelerator program, while the rest was split between Luckey and VC firm The Fund.
The appeal of SideQuest is that it sidesteps the official Oculus Store which, on Quest, imposes a quality or scope bar on apps. That means smaller or less polished projects are unlikely to be approved on the store.
“No HMD manufacturer should have a stranglehold on the VR ecosystem or unilateral control over what people run on their VR headsets, and when I look at Sidequest, I see the spirit of Oculus Share,” Luckey told TechCrunch.
Oculus Share was the company’s proto-app store which hosted VR apps regardless of quality or scope. Oculus continued the approach of allowing any app onto its VR app store (so long as it met technical requirements) up until Quest, at which point the company pivoted to a curated approval process for the headset.
SideQuest is basically an unofficial app-store built atop Quest’s ‘side-loading’ capability, which allows developers to manually load applications onto the headset. That poses a significant risk to the project and its investors. At any point Facebook could declare that side-loading is intended only for developers and move to lock the door with a more complicated side-loading procedure.
But it may be too late. With hundreds of thousands of monthly visitors to SideQuest and hundreds of hosted apps, according to TechCrunch, and now with a seed investment, significantly hampering SideQuest might be too risky for Facebook’s developer relations.
In fact, Facebook may ultimately end up solidifying SideQuest as the official, unofficial app store for Quest. The company announced last week that it plans to begin allowing apps onto its store infrastructure, even before approval, with the caveat that unapproved apps won’t be listed in the official store and it will be up to developers to distribute by themselves. SideQuest creator Shane Harris told UploadVR that his platform will serve as a distribution hub for those unlisted apps.
For Luckey’s part, the investment in SideQuest is not the first time he’s supported projects that directly challenge Facebook’s grip on the VR app ecosystem. In 2017 he began supporting Revive—an unofficial mod which allows Oculus Store content to be played on non-Oculus headsets—with $2,000 in monthly funding through its Patreon campaign.