Oculus Rift has launched its first units of consumer hardware, with company founder Palmer Luckey hand-delivering the first unit. But along with the Oculus Rift comes the Oculus Store, and it's the only source officially sanctioned by Oculus for purchasing apps and games. (The official step one for "how to download a game or app" is "Select a game or app of interest in the Oculus Store.")
So what happens if someone wants to release a game elsewhere -- or buy a game somewhere else? "Certain developers may create applications for Rift using the Oculus SDK that are not distributed through the Oculus platform," the help topic on the issue reads, before providing instructions to turn on the ability to run games provided outside of the Oculus Store ecosystem (including Steam). By default, the ability to run games from "unknown sources" is turned off.
This has some developers, who'd rather distribute their titles on their platform of choice, concerned -- or annoyed, because it hems in their choices and helps ensure that the Oculus Rift is a walled garden, a controversial topic in PC circles these days.
The cohort of developers who aren't pleased about includes a prominent one: Epic Games founder and CEO Tim Sweeney -- a big believer in VR, whose company demoed Oculus Rift games and apps less than two weeks ago at GDC. He tweeted out this comment, in response to Google WebVR developer Brandon Jones' tweet noting the policy.
It's hardly a surprise. Sweeney recently penned a couple of editorials arguing against similar moves by Microsoft's Universal Windows Platform -- a system for distributing apps across Windows 10 devices which he argues is a step toward a closed ecosystem.
When asked for comment, an Oculus representative sent us this developer blog link, which essentially contains the same information as the help files: "As a developer, you don’t have to be in the Oculus Store — you can sell outside, and when you do that you can you use your own IAP if you prefer, and we don’t take a cut. ... People can access this content by enabling the 'Unknown Sources' setting in the Oculus desktop app."