The Oculus Quest store is a walled garden. Inside, great titles thrive under perfect conditions, with consistent promotions and the support of Facebook-owned Oculus. But their entry criteria are exact; not every software title can enter, vetted by employees monitoring for quality. And under these restrictions, SideQuest’s platform where anyone can submit content thrived.
The Oculus Store serves casual browsers; people with a VR headset who purchase games on their established storefront. SideQuest is for more hardcore people who have the know-how to ready their Quest. While smaller, it is still a sizable amount.
The existence of SideQuest raises a few questions. On the one hand, we have a popular third-party platform where Oculus Quest games are sold. SideQuest doesn’t get a cut of the game sales, but ads and Patreon run the platform itself. On the other, we have a goliath tech company who wants to run a curated apps platform, not open like Steam. Would there be conflict?
What is the difference between SideQuest and Oculus Quest?
But first, let’s start with the basics. The Oculus Quest store is the official way in which anyone can buy Oculus Quest games, from Beat Saber to Vader Immortal. The store comes with every VR headset, and anyone can browse it. SideQuest is an unofficial way to play games not accepted into the store.
The Oculus Quest promises quality by controlling which games are included on their store. The benefit is that all games on it should be decent quality, acceptable to sell and be appreciated by browsers. However, it also means a lot of games are turned down, leaving VR developers no official way to sell the software they worked on.
SideQuest began in 2019 to serve these developers, allowing anyone to put their game up for sale. It also guides people on how to set up their Oculus Quest to play the games, via a guide online. The result is a store where anything goes – for better or worse. But it gives the freedom of choice for those who want it.
I’ve focused on the Oculus Quest in this article, but it is worth noting that the store also serves Go and other types of headsets.
What is Oculus’ relationship with SideQuest?
Initially, people may suspect that Oculus wants to close its competition. Having a store they 100 per cent control makes business sense. Not so; Oculus does not have those intentions. “I have a great relationship with Oculus, we chat regularly, and it has always been positive,” said Shane Harris, CEO of SideQuest.
Instead, the relationship points towards SideQuest providing an alternative to the Oculus Quest store. “The long term plan for SideQuest is to continue to deliver a useful facility for developers and users to enjoy. SideQuest has become a runaway success, so we are focused on managing that growth going forward.”
The strategy makes sense. Oculus monopolises the market by providing a store everyone has to use for purchases and discovery. The plan has worked wonders for Oculus, who reaped $100 million in software sales – 20 per cent of which from Quest titles sold in the four months before the announcement.
How popular is SideQuest?
By comparison, SideQuest has a slightly more complicated system where users need to make a developer account to sideload apps. Not easy for casual players who want to hop in and play. But despite this, SideQuest has 200,000 active users and 4,500,000 overall hits each month — a success by anyone’s standards.
According to Mr Harris, FPS games are top-rated, such as Pavlov, Crisis Vrigade, and Tea For God. And developers are passionate about the platform too. Brett Jackson, the developer of Jumbli, notes that “it provides an important place for experimentation and feedback for projects at an alpha/beta stage (replacing the long-gone Oculus Share) as well as generating revenue for VR developers.”
It is a make-or-break situation for Mr Jackson. “The majority of my sales come from SideQuest, and without it, I may not have released the Quest version at all.”
The future relationship between the two VR companies
Mr Harris notes that the platform is consistently popular as its one of the few ways people can stream SteamVR to their Oculus Quest. He also remarks that there has been a rise in hand-tracking experiences; something that may further develop in the future.
In my view, the future seems right. With a positive relationship fulfilling two interested groups – casual browsers and hardcore enthusiasts – I can see both communities continuing to develop. Mr Harris provides an option for enthusiasts, while Oculus wants to have a curated storefront, solving both wishes. And it is unlikely that Mr Harris currently cuts into the sales of the store, as its an additional ad-on for a different market.
Time will tell whether Oculus changes perspective and includes a section of the store with lower barriers of entry. But for now, their curated approach will continue.
Likewise, Mr Jackson is positive about SideQuest. “I’m grateful that Shane created SideQuest to give developers a way to reach the Quest players and share our efforts.”