The Oculus Quest has been out for a little less than one month and one of the most appealing features for VR Enthusiasts is being shut down. The indie VR Developer Guy Godin his followers on Reddit that he was going to be bringing Steam VR Streaming to the new standalone headset. Guy Godin developed the well known VR App Virtual Desktop, which allows a user to stream whatever is on their desktop computer to their headset. The feature was not initially included int he App that Oculus approved for the Quest App Store, but was later loaded in a subsequent update. Oculus seemingly didn’t like this and has asked Guy Godin to remove the feature from Virtual Desktop.
For VR Enthusiasts, this feature – which was initially coined as a “bonus” for Virtual Desktop, made the Oculus Quest far more useful and versatile as a VR Platform. It essentially enabled them to leverage the power of a desktop PC like the Oculus Rift requires, and then stream the images to the Queast Headset. It also enabled the playing of Steam VR Games – Something that a lot of Quest users have complained quite a bit about.
For those that have owned a VR Headset before owning the Quest, it has been frustrating for them to wrap their heads around the idea of having to buy VR Titles again after having already purchased them on Steam VR and other App Stores.
While cross-buy is something that App developers are starting to hear loud and clear, some of the popular titles on the quest, specifically Beat Saber, didn’t support cross-buy and did not honor a purchase made on other platforms – even if you’ve purchased Beat Saber on the Rift but purchased through SteamVR. The comment sections in the Oculus Quest Store speak for them selves.
It’s clear that Oculus is wanting the Quest’s store and the small handful of exclusive titles like Vadar Imortal and Robo Recall to be closely guarded. The argument could be made that this is similar to what Apple does with the App Store on the iPhone, creating a walled garden that is control to ensure the best possible user experience. But the analogy breaks when you consider App Developers who already have relationships with customers are being asked to charge those customers again and but the same title again for second platform.
Gaming platforms have been doing this forever, but in the digital download world that we live in, and the clear evidence that there aren’t any technical limitations that would prevent a game developer from providing their content on another platform – and in the case of Virtual Desktop a full stream of ANY platform that can be emulated inside of that App – it seams like Oculus might be getting a little greedy with the Quest and what games will be allowed on the platform.
The original library of 50 titles on the Quest (which has grown incrementally over the last few weeks), is mostly ports from other platforms. Which means the occurrence of double buy and the requests for cross-buy is going to continue to be loud in the ears of developers – at least until there are more exclusive titles that users are convinced they should open their virtual wallets to buy.
But, until this happens, it’s going to be a rough road and make users think twice about what platform they want to buy VR Titles on – especially if they are able to get cross-buy credit when they buy through SteamVR but not when they buy through the Oculus Store.
Godin’s motivations for Virtual Desktop has been improving the experience for his users. Reducing latency, improving picture quality, enabling casting, and adding other functionality requested by his users. But, “…according to Oculus, I’m hurting Quest,” he said on Reddit.
The logic is difficult to quantify. Godin is doing something users want, he’s not stealing anything or misappropriating intellectual property – he’s enabling users to take what they own, and display it in a headset they purchased. He’s potentially – and in some cases actually – singlehandedly adding more VR Titles to the Quest than Oculus did at launch.
Smells like more of a potential partnership than a cease and desist situation to me – but I’m in the camp of wanting to take my VR titles from Steam, VivePort, and PSVR over to the Quest.
The original Reddit thread has grown to over 900 comments and has people plotting their reaction to the move with suggestions of mass app refund demands and other ‘virtual’ civil disobedience to send a message to Facebook-owned Oculus.
Users were thrilled with the feature Godin released that enabled SteamVR on the Quest and praised it as “the best feature released on the Quest so far.”
There is a very large amount of opposition to the ban, but the voices of the several hundred that are upset are likely to be trumped by the thousands that are happy with the Quest as their first VR headset, without any past VR Titles they purchased on any other platform. It’s a fresh start for many.
There still may be hope for the enthusiast who still wants to find a way to get their stream titles on the Quest – including taking advantage of the Quest side loading feature that developers use in their development workflows. Other non-approved Apps have already been using side-loading to enable other software to make modification to existing titles or get apps that aren’t approved onto the Quest. This is a difficult road to go down, because the implications for a developer can be long-lasting.
Staying in the good graces of the big player that owns the store where you good are purchased is usually a good idea. But when they are wrong, petitioning for correction to store policy is absolutely something worth everyone in the VR community’s time!