Let me preface by saying this article is not intended to take food out of the mouths of Oculus developers. But consumers have a right (and dare I say a responsibility) to understand their rights and options as buyers. Thanks to Quest Link, the Oculus Quest store is no longer the only game in town.
For most people (until recently), the only outlet you could make Oculus Quest game purchases from was the Quest area of the Oculus Store.
Then came Virtual Desktop and other tools that allowed you to stream PC VR games from the Rift side and SteamVR client to your Quest (with a varying degree of very mixed results).
Many Oculus Go titles became cross platform (and cross-buy) opening up the options a bit more.
With the introduction of the Quest Link — no matter how crappy your WiFi network is, you can now play pretty much all PC VR games.
We now have effectively three stores for Quest games;
- Oculus Store on Quest
- Oculus Store on PC
Why this is important to you? The consumer? The gamer? Let’s look at them individually.
#1: Oculus Store on Quest
You probably bought a Quest to get a great, untethered, portable console-style experience with virtual reality. That means native apps that run on the Quest with no silly PC or sensors or cabling.
To get what you paid for with the Quest you’re looking at making purchases from this store alone. You buy from there, you’re guaranteed that level of freedom you desire with no PC, no wires, no nonsense.
Those without PCVR (or a VR ready PC) should be buying exclusively from this store. Oculus carefully curates what they allow on here (maybe too much) so you can probably buy with confidence.
As many Quest owners will tell you; games on this store do not go on sale (at the time of writing). There are no deals. No bundles. You cannot buy games for Oculus Quest from Amazon, Humble Bundle or anywhere else. This is a closed ecosystem and as such, you will pay the asking price or go without.
#2: Oculus Store on PC (Rift/S)
If you were a Rift/S owner before owning a Quest, you used to buy from this store via the app on your PC.
These games ran on your PC, outputting the game to your Oculus Rift headset.
With “cross-buy” games that exist on both Rift and Quest platforms — these can be purchased once to be played on both platforms; PC version and native Quest version.
With Link, you can play the native PC versions streamed to your Quest; just like you had the Rift/S headset while having the Quest version to play when you are mobile or simply feel too lazy to hook up your Link cable.
The best of both worlds; native Quest on the go — more rich experience (usually) when you’re willing to tether up with Link.
Unlike the Quest-bound store, this Oculus Store does offer deals; daily discounts, bundles and more. Of course, these games are typically not cross-buy and you will only be playing these games on your Quest with the Link cable binding you to your VR Ready Windows PC; not on the go.
Like the Quest store, there are no external agencies selling games for this digital locker. You pay face value for the game and you play it through the Oculus app on your PC.
#3: Steam / SteamVR
Thanks to the Link cable and Oculus’ willingness to allow it — we now have access to the giant SteamVR library of games.
There are tremendous advantages to this; but let’s save the good stuff until the end.
Let’s start with the downsides to using Steam; before I assure you why you need to embrace it.
First, it is another digital locker to care and feed. Oh sure, it is free to download and use; but if you’re coming from a Quest only, non-PC gamer experience? Having another interface to hold and run games is a real drag.
Second, it may require yet-other-digital-lockers to access content through. No, I’m not kidding. You could purchase a game like Star Trek: Bridge Crew on Steam and be required to turn around and install (and use) Uplay (Ubisoft’s own digital locker) which requires another account and yet another platform that holds your games. That’s right, that’s Steam to Uplay to Oculus to Link to Quest. Whoa.
Third, not every SteamVR game works 100% with Oculus Quest via Link. At the time of writing, one of the signature PCVR experiences, Batman Arkham VR has controller issues where they appear and disappear. There is no “Oculus Quest Link Compatible” moniker to help you decide what works and what doesn’t work right. Consulting the community like the good people on r/OculusQuest might get you some answers — but there is always a chance of an issue.
Fourth, SteamVR represents yet another UI layer full of configuration options and nuances that you’ll need to absorb on top of the Oculus stuff.
Sounds like a lot of work and nonsense, right? Maybe not even worth your time and energy?
Steam is the most popular and well-established digital locker on the planet (despite what the Epic Games marketing machine may tell you). Their shelves are full of VR experiences (2448 matches for the search term “virtual reality”).
VR games on Steam go on sale; frequently. There are seasonal sales throughout the year where game prices hit rock bottom.
At the time of writing, there are 103 virtual reality games on sale at Steam. For example, VR favorite Arizona Sunshine is on sale right now for $19.99. The same exact game sits on Oculus’ store for $39.99 (this is at the time of writing). You like saving $20? Most people do.
The real beauty is that Steam isn’t the only store that sells Steam keys.
#1 and #2 are closed markets. You buy direct, you pay full price. You can’t get keys from Humble Bundle, Fanatical, GreenManGaming or other sources. There are risks involved of course — dealing with shady key resellers isn’t smart; but there are plenty of LEGIT resellers that offer great discounts. IndieGala offers super cheap VR bundles all the time (although you can expect the quality to vary).
My point is, Steam gives you options; options tend to bring lower prices and better selection.
The trade off? You may have to jump through a few more hoops. You may find the game isn’t working as well on Link as it did on Rift. Fortunately, like Oculus — you get a two hour play return window as well. Be warned that with most third party key resellers; all purchases final — but knowing you have a return policy directly with Steam minimizes the risk with that platforms’ purchases.
But Wait — There Is One More Reason To Embrace Steam
This is going to sound too good to be true. But it is true; and it is probably the single most compelling reason to consider Steam as a store for your VR purchasing.
You can share your games with up to five people.
“Wait, what? I can buy Beat Saber on Steam and 5 of my family & friends can play it too? For free?”
… and this is totally legal?
There is a little known fact about Steam that a lot of people tend to forget about — Family Sharing.
There has to be a catch, right? Not really. If you visit the Family Sharing site, you’ll note that you have a 10 device, 5 account limit. Only one instance of the game can be running at a time (you can’t buy a multiplayer game and share it with a buddy so you can play together). You will have to give up your Steam password for your friend to login with (to authorize that PC to use your library) or you need to remote his PC with something like Zoho Assist or Team Viewer — log into Steam as yourself, authorize the PC to be part of your Family Plan.
This is a great way to “share” the expense of VR gaming. You buy Moss, your friend buys Creed. Take turns. Neat, right? Don’t worry; if you want to play Moss when your friend is — Steam will bump him off for you.
Note: Either by design or by glitch, your authorization occasionally ... deauthorizes … forcing you to repeat the authorization process again.
Too Many Choices!
My advice? Buy stuff native when you can (Store #1). If you have a Rift too or need those Oculus Exclusives; use Store #2.
Otherwise? Try looking for a deal using Store #3. This great website can help you find deals and see historical low prices so you know where to watch if you’re looking for a bargain.
Have fun having options!