It’s simple to root for increased high quality software program: In the “anything goes” app retailer period, nice apps are routinely surrounded by lots of junky ones. Having to wade by means of trash sucks for customers, and is now irritating even the app shops’ operators.

Facebook’s Oculus division thinks it has an answer to this drawback. With solely weeks remaining earlier than the launch of its $399 standalone VR headset Quest, Oculus announced that builders might want to meet heightened high quality requirements earlier than they’ll be allowed within the new Oculus Quest retailer. Nothing’s altering with the Go or Rift shops — the corporate’s highest ever requirements will solely be enforced for Quest.

To win entry to the Quest retailer, builders might want to submit an idea doc to Oculus together with “evidence of quality and probable market success,” plus “alignment to our Oculus Developer Content Guidelines.” If they’re permitted, they’ll acquire full growth and publishing entry; if not, they received’t should waste sources working towards one thing that shall be rejected.

No one of their proper thoughts would oppose the “quality-first” idea behind this plan — and I personally known as for it to occur final yr. After losing money and time on some glitchy, half-baked VR video games, I instructed that Oculus (and its opponents) create traditional Nintendo-style seals of high quality to lift the testing and efficiency requirements for some laggard VR builders. But I additionally mentioned that I used to be “not holding my breath” for it to truly occur.

So on one hand, I’m thrilled that Oculus is elevating the standard bar for VR software program. But then again, I’m unsure that the Oculus Quest retailer is the very best place for the corporate to start out.

Oculus Quest’s new app screening process could kill the $399 VR platform

Above: Oculus Quest tennis is like taking part in Wii tennis, in VR.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

If you’ve been following media and analyst experiences on Quest, you’ve in all probability seen a group of typically constructive hands-on impressions and optimistic predictions of strong unit gross sales. My colleague Dean Takahashi opined that Quest “could be a really awesome platform for games in the future” after hands-on testing final September, and although the demos I’ve performed have been decidedly sub-console high quality, I typically agree. Research agency SuperData mentioned final yr that Quest will lead VR into the mainstream, and extra lately predicted gross sales of 1.three million Quests throughout 2019 — that’s round as many $399 Quests within the first yr as Oculus bought $199 Go headsets.

Historically, nonetheless, that’s not the best way gross sales volumes typically work in shopper electronics. The fancier, costlier model of an current profitable product historically sells markedly fewer models than the lower-end mannequin, which is why corporations looking for bigger put in bases have a tendency to seek out methods to make their gadgets extra inexpensive to extra folks. There are uncommon exceptions — arguably, the iPhone X — however even for trend-bucking Apple, there are quite a few counter-examples, such because the iPhone XR and earlier fashions reportedly outselling the deluxe iPhone XS in 2018.

In the VR market, I’d argue that pricing and software program have been the important thing inhibitors of {hardware} gross sales, and that the expansion VR has seen over the previous yr has been largely on account of extra aggressive costs and important lots of high-quality software program. PlayStation VR started to essentially pull forward of opponents when the {hardware} worth fell underneath $200, and Oculus Go gross sales have been good as a result of it began at that stage. Additionally, PSVR obtained a large infusion of wonderful software program in time for the vacations, whereas Go — extra of a passive video viewer — had a sturdy assortment of apps to fulfill customers.

Up till Oculus’ “higher quality bar” announcement for Quest, the most important query in my thoughts was how the corporate would construct a software program library to draw these 1.three million estimated clients in 2019. Relatively few video games have been formally introduced for Quest’s launch window, they usually’re typically experiences you could additionally play elsewhere. So far, the core Quest pitch is the chance to get pleasure from beforehand launched video games comparable to Superhot VR with out wires.

For builders, it’s price underscoring {that a} person base of that measurement is trivial in contrast with the 32+ million-selling Nintendo Switch, which launched slightly below two years in the past. And for a wide range of causes, the chance of any Quest sport having Switch-level success in both pricing or gross sales volumes is virtually zero.

Oculus Quest’s new app screening process could kill the $399 VR platform

Above: Two years of Nintendo Switch {hardware} gross sales dwarf even optimistic gross sales projections for the Oculus Quest.

Image Credit: Nintendo

Instead of welcoming each attainable piece of software program to its new platform after which casting brilliant spotlights on the very best submissions, Oculus appears to be like prefer it’s attempting to create a ready line outdoors an empty restaurant. At this stage, I can’t say whether or not it’s doing this as a result of there are too many Quest builders to display, or as a result of it’s going to want an evidence for why it’s launching with comparatively few video games. The precise causes could solely develop into obvious within the weeks to return.

In both case, I’m unsure that builders will be capable to present proof of “probable market success” on a platform with no present clients. Oculus seems to be concentrating on players with Quest (which it at the moment says is “focused first and foremost on fantastic game experiences”), however does that imply it’s not accepting non-gaming apps for the platform?

It will even be fascinating to see which titles the corporate thinks are “cool” and “will resonate with the Quest audience” sufficient to benefit full growth help and publishing entry. Those kinds of judgments are largely within the eye of the beholder, and will flip off the kind of small, risk-taking builders an unproven platform must survive, in hopes of attracting Oculus’ goal of “high-quality, innovative titles [that] tend to be expensive to build.”

For the sake of each Oculus and Quest customers, I hope the corporate’s initiative has the specified impact and truly raises the Quest retailer’s high quality bar to the next stage than its predecessors. But it may deprive this new platform of the regular stream of latest software program it might want to survive at its $399 worth level. That’s nonetheless a steep worth for customers to pay for unproven VR {hardware}, and Oculus goes to want each incentive it may muster to persuade customers to leap on board.