Oculus announced the “Oculus Platform” store for developers to distribute their virtual reality apps and experiences today at the Oculus Connect conference. Starting this fall on the Samsung Gear VR made by Oculus, this revamp of the Oculus Share marketplace will let users browse the Oculus Platform within virtual reality and download apps, games, and entertainment experiences.
Eventually, there will be versions of the Oculus Platform for the Rift, iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer. Oculus Platform could become one of the first ways for developers to sell the VR experiences they build, and by creating this marketplace, Oculus could rally the ecosystem to its mobile and PC-based VR headsets.
VP of Product Nate Mitchell debuted Oculus Platform at the Connect conference just after CEO Brendan Iribe revealed the new Crescent Bay feature prototype — the successor to the DK2. You can check out all the news, features, and our hands-on with the Crescent Bay here.
The Oculus Platform sits you in a blue holodeck-style space with floating tiles of different games you can play. You can look around and use your gaze to select an app or experience, then tap on the Gear VR’s touchpad to enter it. By turning your head around, you can see different sets of tiles for games, art apps, social, and other types of VR experiences.
Oculus will release some of its own apps in the Platform, including the Oculus Cinema and Oculus 360 Photos and Videos where users can watch films, and check out images and video clips shot for VR. Oculus will also open source these apps to help developers learn how to build for the marketplace. Platform will act as sort of a launcher for Oculus headsets, allowing people to quickly jump around and try different experiences.
[Update 4:35pm PST: After sitting down with Oculus co-founder and VP of Product Nate Mitchell, we’ve got new details on the future of the Oculus Platform. First, the goal is to eventually give VR developers a way to make money. Mitchell tells me the top question Oculus gets from VR app developers is when they’ll be able to sell their experiences. He believes this will create “a cycle that improves the ecosystem. If they if they can be super successful (making money), they can reinvest in development, and that’s the best thing.” Creating a great marketplace for developers is largely why Oculus hired Jason Holtman, who turned Valve’s Steam online game store into a favorite in the gaming community, as its Head Of Platform.
However, when Oculus Platform debuts as the Oculus homescreen of the Samsung Gear VR this fall, it will not allow for payments. Instead, developers will only be allowed to “give things away for free”, says Mitchell. “We want to offer developers a way to get feedback on their content as soon as possible.” This way, by the time Oculus is ready to have them sell their games for money, they’ll be worthy of the consumer’s dollar.
One open question, though, is how that will happen on iOS. While Mitchell announced that a native Oculus Platform app would be coming to iOS, he said that news is a bit premature as Oculus doesn’t know quite what Apple will allow. Tim Cook’s company has historically restricted app stores within apps, which is exactly how Oculus Platform will work on Android for the Samsung Galaxy Note 4. Ideally, Oculus Platform would be able to sell apps that users can download to their iPhones and then play by slipping their phone into a VR headset as the screen, like it will on Samsung Gear VR. But Apple might not allow that. Instead, the iOS Oculus Platform app might be more of a social portal, where you could ping friends to play VR games with you or discover new VR apps to download another way.]
As we saw with Apple’s early smartphone App Store, congregating a critical mass of developers for a new type of devices can pay off big time in the long-run. By building both the top headset with Crescent Bay and the running the Platform marketplace for apps, today Oculus made a strong bid to become the iPhone, iOS, and App Store of VR.