In early 2021, Facebook plans to let Oculus Quest developers distribute apps to select users without having to go through the store approval process:
“In early 2021 we’ll offer a new way to distribute your work in the Quest ecosystem, allowing you to share your apps to anyone with a Quest, without having to be accepted into the Oculus Store and without sideloading. While we expect many developers will want to share their apps as broadly as possible, we also see this new channel as a way to test early-stage applications and distribute to specific users.
Oculus Quest is essentially a virtual reality console. Apps are rendered by the device itself, served from a tightly curated digital store. Developers are required to submit a pitch application early in the development cycle, which must be approved in order to upload a Quest build to the store system.
The store curation policy has come under criticism from some indie developers, who feel Facebook is stifling innovation and exercising too much control over standalone VR — there is currently still no serious competitor to Quest in the western consumer market.
Users can use a PC to manually “sideload” apps, but this is a fairly complex process for those who aren’t experienced with command line interfaces. It also requires telling Facebook you’re a developer and agreeing to a developer Terms of Service.
Five days after Quest started shipping, software developer Shane Harris launched SideQuest, a tool for PCs which greatly simplifies this sideloading process. SideQuest soon evolved into what’s effectively an alternate store- though you still need to use a PC to install and update apps.
So how exactly will Facebook’s new distribution channel work? Facebook isn’t sharing many details yet, but suggests this as a replacement for shipping apps on Oculus Go. The Go store will stop accepting new apps on December 18 as hardware sales for the older system come to an end.
“The Oculus Platform policies will apply to all apps we distribute, and developers will still need to meet the obligations of our Oculus Content Policy,” a prepared statement from Facebook explains. “However, apps distributed through this new channel won’t be held to the same technical standards as official Oculus Store apps.”
This could mean a similar system to the current Unlisted Release Channels for Rift and Go. That system allows up to 100 users invited to access the build using the email address associated with their Oculus account.
We’ll provide updates on the new Quest distribution channel as soon as we have them.