App Lab enable is a feature that just enables devs to upload their “unfinished” apps and game to the Oculus Quest store without needing those apps to go through a review process.
Those early access games usually have different issues and might not properly–which otherwise might have been rejected by Oculus reviewers have they been submitted in their current dev stage.
However, the goal for releasing these apps, whether paid or free is to test those apps before releasing them. Some might continue to be free, some might be paid once they are gone through the regular review process and officially released.
Until now, the only way was sideloading, using platforms like SideQuest to download the apk of the apps and installed them to the headset like you are a developer testing an app. It’s actually legit and allowed.
Oculus probably wanted developers to submit those apps through its platform and not 3rd parties. Those 3rd parties can become very big especially considering there are many devs who prefer testing apps before releasing them like those early access games on Steam. Just look at what happen on Steam, endless games that are in early access. Those types of 3rd party platforms can become very big and become major places for buying Oculus Quest apps eventually.
Now Oculus Quest store is like Steam in a way–enabling developers to test apps in the early stages by sharing them with users through the official store and getting feedback. This instead of relying on third-party solutions.
Keep in mind that software like SideQuest still feature Oculus App Lab. It’s just that they open the app’s page on the official website and exploding the “Get” button. Still, the game isn’t installed yet and you need to tap to install via the app. Also, you don’t need a cable for this, so Oculus saves users a hassle going through the installation process. You just tap a link and install those apps. Without it, you need a cable, connect it to a PC, install a 3rd party app like SideQuest and even then it won’t appear like a normal app in the apps section.
App Lab apps appear like any other app when you use the Oculus Quest or Quest 2.
It’s so easy now. I just tap a link and the app will appear in the headset the next time I use it and I can download it. It’s also important not to make the user experience bad, but to improve it so users won’t be tired from the complexity of the technology which isn’t too user-friendly, to begin with for newcomers. Although the Quest 2 really improved in that aspect.
Now it’s also important to note that this will increase the selection of games available on the official store. I think I played more VR games for the Quest through SideQuest than those on the Oculus Store. I think that’s true to many. This make me come to the official store less often, and it reduces the discovery and might even impact sales of paid apps to some degree.
To be honest, VR games are still expensive and there are many people searching for those free games, which aren’t many great ones on the Oculus Store, but you’ll find plenty in “early access” via SideQuest using Sideloading.
Now this doesn’t hurt us, the customers. Devs can always decide if they want to release the apk of their VR apps through different means or use both. But this increases the visibility of their apps when they go through the official store as well and overall it’s great for developers.
I like that decision from Facebook, as this help support devs. Without them, there will be no Quest. It’s all about the apps they release to the platform. Being able to give them support, provide feedback–is very important for the development process and helping build a community behind certain games.
Overall, I am pleased with this decision but of course, I’ll continue watching new apps released through Sidequest, as there are many more available titles through SideQuest than currently available through the Quest store.