Oculus didn’t just launch their Rift VR headset back in March—they also launched a software interface and an online store. The software functions similarly to Steam or GOG, working as a store, a social network, a game library and launching pad. It desperately needs an upgrade.
Oculus’ software interface can be accessed either on your desktop or through the Rift itself. The desktop app looks about how you’d expect (see the pic up top for an example).
If you put on your headset, it puts you inside a virtual space called “Oculus Home,” where you sit in a peaceful environment and navigate the store by looking up at a giant screen.
The store is in beta, and has been since the Rift launched three months ago. You can indeed buy games through it, and you can manage a few settings on your Rift. You can add people to your friends list. That’s basically it.
Oculus clearly wants their store to compete with the likes of GOG and Steam. (For example: Oculus launched a summer sale today, same day as Valve’s Steam summer sale. Oculus’ ends one day later. Second example: Oculus has its share of exclusive games and has been pursuing timed-exclusivity deals to keep Rift owners from just buying everything on Steam.) They aim to challenge Valve, but they aren’t there yet.
Here are a few basic features the Oculus store needs:
More ways to organize games
It’s difficult to sort through the my games, and I consistently spend a lot of time scanning over their separate rectangular images before I find what I’m looking for. I’d love a “favorites” tab, or a more list-like way of organizing my games.
A way to add outside games
Similar to Steam’s “Add a non-Steam game” option, it’d be nice to be able to link my library to an external game or app and access it directly from within Home.
Sure, you can always go and Google reviews of a given game, but it’s much more helpful to see a few upvoted reactions right there on the store page. Steam’s reviews system has problems of its own, but I’d rather an imperfect reviews system than no reviews system at all.
The store feels pretty devoid of life at the moment, and a little conversation would go a long way. A lot of conversation would go even further.
Text and voice chat
I only have a few people on my Oculus friends list, but I’d love some way to interact with them. It’d also be nice to be able to make groups, have group discussion boards, organize events, and so on.
Stats (time played, etc.)
This would be especially helpful because I tend to lose track of time while playing VR games.
Patch notes and update history
I’m more interested in tracking a game’s update history than I used to be, and it’d be great if there were a way to read changelogs and patch notes from within the Oculus store.
You know what, actually, I’m okay with no unified achievements system. Achievements are annoying. I know some people like them, though, so I’ll put them on this list.
Game trailers and demos in actual VR
Given that anyone using the Oculus Store has a Rift or a Gear VR, it seems like it’d be possible for developers to start releasing demos and even VR trailers for their games. I’m not sure how that’d work—would you have to give the player control, lest they get queasy? Regardless, there’s got to be a better option than the current way of checking out a game from within the store, which usually involves looking at screenshots projected on a VR screen in front of you.
Steam’s refund system was a welcome addition to their service, and Oculus should follow Valve’s example. This is doubly true since even the best VR games can make some players nauseous—a game that works fine for most players could be your personal kryptonite. It’d be a real bummer to drop cash on a great game that you can’t play without wanting to puke.
A way to customize Oculus Home
Oculus Home, the virtual room that the store floats in when you look at it in VR, is a cool idea. But I’d love to be able to customize my “home” so that it doesn’t look exactly like everyone else’s. I’m sick of the fireplace, man.
Things to actually do in Oculus Home
At the moment, I can’t really move around within Oculus Home. I just sit there on the floor, staring up at a giant screen. It’s cool-looking and it works well enough, but I’d at least like the option to, say, go into an adjacent virtual movie theater to watch streaming movies through my browser, or even invite other users into my home.
Given that the Oculus Store is still in beta, we can safely assume more updates are coming soon. The store will almost certainly have gotten a significant update by the time the Touch controllers come out later this year. I’ve asked Oculus if they can offer any sort of timeline on updates, but haven’t got any specifics yet.
Hardware shortages have made it notoriously difficult to get a Rift, so a bare-bones store is currently less of a glaring issue than it could be. One has to assume that at some point soon, manufacturing will catch up with demand. By that point, the store needs to be a lot better than it is.