Meta Quest (2): Some App Lab developers earn millions
With the App Lab, Meta enables developers to publish VR apps on Meta Quest, even if they don't yet have the maturity level of Oculus Store apps.
Studios can experiment with app ideas and receive valuable feedback from early adopters. The latter, in turn, gain access to sometimes exciting or unusual VR experiments.
This gap in the market was previously filled by the sideloading platform Sidequest. The advantage of the App Lab is that the somewhat tedious sideloading process is no longer necessary and users can download VR apps from the Oculus Store with just a few clicks. This also has advantages for developers as they can potentially reach more people.
App Lab games are not listed or advertised in the Oculus Store. You can reach the VR apps through the store URLs or by typing their name into the Oculus Store search. So they mainly thrive on word of mouth. Developers can also distribute access codes.
Gorilla Tag: Almost as many ratings as Beat Saber
The App Lab is a success for Meta. First, in quantitative terms. Since opening in February 2021, nearly 1,200 VR apps have appeared on the App Lab (as of June 29, 2022), according to VRDB.
That's more than three times as many VR apps as in the Quest Store, which opened in May 2019. In the first few months, testing took a long time because the rush was so great and Meta had to ramp up teams.
The App Lab is also seeing success in terms of quality: A growing number of VR apps are making the leap to the Oculus Store. Some App Lab apps have also found a huge fan base, most notably the fabulously successful catch game Gorilla Tag, which has almost as many ratings in the App Lab as Beat Saber (36,500 vs. 43,800, as of June 29, 2022) - and more than any other commercial VR game in the Oculus Store.
Some studios make millions
Developers can offer VR apps for free or for a one-time payment in the App Lab, just like in the Oculus Store. Since the end of 2021, there is also the possibility to earn money with DLCs and microtransactions.
In the latest episode of the Ruff Talk VR Podcast, Meta Manager Chris Pruett talks about the commercial success of the App Lab (starting at circa 19:00). Pruett is the head of the content ecosystem and is responsible for managing third-party developers who publish VR content to the Oculus Store and App Lab.
"What I'm really happy about is, App Lab is not designed to be a holding area or like a space where you wait to get into the store. App Lab is designed to be a standalone ecosystem where developers can be successful," Pruett explains.
According to Pruett, there are developers on the platform who are extremely successful, even compared to store developers. They make "millions of dollars" because they can reach out to their communities, promote their apps themselves, and share their content easily through a link. This is easier than sideloading an app, Pruett said.
Most of the money is likely to come from microtransactions
Pruett does not reveal which virtual reality apps and how many of them generate millions in revenue.
The candidates are obvious: Gorilla Tag is free, but generates revenue by selling cosmetic items. The same goes for Gym Class - Basketball (13,000 ratings), while Sport Mode (4,700 ratings) sells for ten euros.
Very few App Lab games have so many ratings. The fact that they achieve such popularity ratings proves that the App Lab can be a springboard for large fan bases and commercial hits, even if the titles are not listed and promoted in the Oculus Store.