Installing apps on many platforms requires going to a specific store app or web site. Apple has the App Store, Android the Play Store, and the Meta Rift/Quest headsets have the Meta Store. Unlike with Windows and MacOS, you can’t easily download a Quest app from any web site and install it. This is good in that it makes it more difficult for people to install malicious software (although it’s not foolproof). It also ensures that apps are written in a correct way that won’t interfere with other apps on your device.
The problem with these app stores is they tend to have lots of rules for what they accept. Sometimes, apps will be rejected, and the developer won’t even fully understand why. It can be a frustrating process for small developers to navigate the process, and less polished apps may never make it. The 30% cut from the Meta Store can also be daunting!
Remember when I said you can’t download apps from random web sites? Technically, I lied. You can do it, but it’s nowhere near as convenient as using the official store. Installing apps from outside the official store is a process called sideloading. Sideloading generally requires some additional steps that can be intimidating to some users. Apps that are sideloaded on the Quest headsets are also demoted by not showing up in your default app list in VR. Instead, you need to change a filter to see apps from Other Sources. These steps make it unlikely that an app will be installed by many via sideloading.
For most platforms, including the Quest, you’ll need to register as a developer to enable sideloading at all. This is because the feature itself is designed so developers can test their apps before submitting them to the store. Fortunately, it doesn’t cost anything to enable this. You’ll need to visit the Meta Developer site and register a new organization, then you can unlock your device.
To simplify the process, I recommend using SideQuest VR. This is a web site that catalogs independent apps. Some of these apps are App Lab titles so they actually link back to the Meta Store, others are standalone apk files that can be sideloaded. APK files are the app files themselves. They’re single files that are usually managed by the store so you don’t see them. SideQuest provides a great search and installer tool for Windows, MacOS, and even for the Quest itself so you can manage these unofficial apps with ease. It’s a little more complicated than just going to the Meta Store, but you can find instructions and some awesome how-to videos on their Get SideQuest page.
Even though you’ll need to follow a few extra steps, there are some hidden gems on SideQuest, so I highly recommend trying it out. Most of the extra steps are one-time, so you can just get them out of the way and start discovering new titles. Don’t be limited by the official store!
Disclosures and footnotes
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