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App Lab is Facebook’s answer to Sidequest, coming in February to Quest

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Oculus Quest 2 SnowSource: Nick Sutrich / Android Central

What you need to know

  • App Lab is Facebook's new Oculus Store feature to help indie developers with distribution.
  • Facebook Messenger makes communication significantly easier while using the Oculus Quest.
  • Oculus firmware update v25 begins rolling out this week and includes nearly a dozen new features.

If you're looking to buy an Oculus Quest 2 or already got one this past Holiday season, Facebook has a ton of new features for you to get excited about. First off, you'll no longer need to just know how to Sideload game on the Oculus Quest, as Facebook is launching its own indie developer section called App Lab. Found right in the official Oculus Store, indie developers who register to be a part of the App Lab process can get their games published to the Oculus Store and earn revenue and a bigger player base through first-party channels. App Lab is shipping with Oculus firmware v25, which is scheduled to roll out the first week of February 2021.

This marks a huge departure from the official stance up until now, which said that apps and games had to be approved by Oculus before being made available in the store. Apps and games in the App Lab program won't normally be listed in the front of the Oculus Store but can be searched for or linked-to directly by developers. Facebook says "App Lab is designed for both exploring new ideas and for distribution", helping give indie developers an edge they didn't have in the past by providing their apps in a much simpler way than sideloading.

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What's more is that Facebook says Sidequest will be officially using these links for easier distribution of content that can also be found on App Lab, eliminating the need for sideloading APKs. Facebook lists the first dozen App Lab apps and games on its developer blog with links to each one, including some surprises like the Quest debut of Crisis VRigade 2 — the sequel to one of our favorite SideQuest games.

Facebook Messenger Oculus Quest

Facebook Messenger Oculus QuestSource: Facebook

Facebook Messenger is also finally coming to the Oculus Quest platform with automatic sign-in for gamers that signed into their Quests with their Facebook profile. Since every Quest 2 requires a Facebook account to work, that means all Quest 2 players will have Messenger available on Oculus firmware v25 this February, making communication and sharing significantly easier than it has been in the past.

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Rounding out the laundry list of upgrades in firmware v25 is an overhauled Universal Menu which will float above the active app instead of taking you back home first. This can be enabled in the experimental features section of settings on your Quest, and also includes a new design, easier and faster party options, as well as a new tablet interface for viewing and controlling the Quest. Stationary Guardian 2.0 overhauls the look and feel of the stationary guardian, so there's no more annoying grid that pops up when you're clearly just sitting in a chair using your Quest. It's a doozy of an update, so be sure to check the changelog for everything you can expect to find!

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