Forget Stadia, Google is getting back into VR in a way we didn’t expect

Edit 10/10: Added additional language to clarify that Google Ventures is a separate company from “Google,” although it is also an Alphabet-owned company.

What you need to know

Truth is often stranger than fiction, and this latest investment from Google Ventures — Alphabet’s venture capital investment arm that provides seed, venture, and growth stage funding to technology companies — is the strangest news we’ve heard in a while.

According to TechCrunch (opens in new tab), Google Ventures has just led a $12 million Series A investment in SideQuest (opens in new tab), the popular 3rd-party app and games marketplace for the Meta Quest platform. Google may have just ditched Stadia (opens in new tab) but it’s clearly not done with gaming yet if this investment is anything to go by.

Google wants to clarify that Google Ventures operates independently from Google itself, even though both companies share the Google name.

SideQuest has long been a haven for indie developers who aren’t able to gain access to the official Oculus app store, as Meta’s guidelines have proven to be a bit confusing at times. Meta even launched App Lab in response to SideQuest’s success, giving developers a way to get on the official Oculus Store without meeting all the requirements. But App Lab isn’t a great way for most developers to actually make money, as App Lab titles can’t be found without searching for the exact name of the game.

Furthermore, some developers get stuck in “App Lab Hell,” a term that means they have been given little direction as to how they can graduate to the official Oculus Store. Clearly, it seems that Google Ventures also sees this as a problem and SideQuest as a potential solution to that problem.

Now that there’s a proper SideQuest app (opens in new tab) that can be used to browse all titles on SideQuest and install them from inside the Quest 2 headset, gamers can play the best SideQuest games (opens in new tab) without having to fumble around on their computers or phones first. Google’s new investment into the company is a great sign that 3rd-party development is as healthy as ever on the Meta Quest platform.

Given that few — or no — Meta Quest alternatives exist for VR gamers looking for quality standalone content, a healthy 3rd-party app store ecosystem is an important way to offer some sort of alternative to Meta’s control of the platform.

Better yet, SideQuest is looking to further support alternative headsets like the Pico 4 (opens in new tab), meaning your favorite games can be taken to just about any upcoming headset, so long as it’s supported by the platform. Heck, maybe this even has something to do with Google’s mysterious AR/VR headset Project Iris (opens in new tab)? Time will tell.

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