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Facebook says goodbye to Oculus Go, opens up Oculus Quest to new apps

The Go's last days are here, but the Quest is opening up in 2021.

Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
Expertise VR and AR, gaming, metaverse technologies, wearable tech, tablets Credentials
  • Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Scott Stein
3 min read

The Oculus Go headset has a single simple controller, and can't play Beat Saber.

Sarah Tew/CNET

If you've been shopping for Oculus Quest, Facebook's popular (and great) VR headset, you may be confused that there's also a less-expensive (and not as good) Oculus Go model that's still available, too. Not for long: Facebook announced it's discontinuing the Go this year, just two years after its 2018 release, and will focus only on the Quest as its one standalone VR device. Facebook has also announced that the tightly curated Oculus Quest is going to open up to new apps and software in 2021, including experimental projects that will be easier to load from outside the Oculus app store.

In a post published today, Facebook said it will "end sales of Oculus Go headsets this year as we double down on improving our offerings for Quest and Rift." The Go -- basically a smartphone-style VR headset in a single sealed package -- will stop getting new feature updates, and new apps and app updates will stop appearing in the Oculus Go store after Dec. 18 this year. The hardware will keep getting security updates through 2022, according to Facebook.

Facebook's Oculus Quest headset has become a clear success story: the headset has cemented itself as a likely do-it-all device that could end up becoming a model for VR headsets going forward

The Oculus Go was always more like a fancier version of pop-on phone goggle-type VR: it lacked hand tracking or full-room motion tracking and could only be used while standing still or sitting. The Go still has its own library of apps, many of which are different than the ones on Quest. Facebook hasn't ported over all the Go apps to Quest, but the company invited developers to explore making these apps available in other ways, including outside the company's app store. 

Outside apps for Quest will be allowed

One annoying part of the Quest has been its heavily curated and less-open app store approach, which has locked out many would-be developers eager to explore new ideas. It's a walled garden, similar to Apple's App Store, although the Quest can be used as a plug-in player for PC VR. But things look like they're opening up further. Facebook has announced that the Quest will be able to load apps outside of the Oculus Store starting in 2021. The Quest can already be used to sideload apps in a somewhat unofficial fashion, but it looks like Facebook is trying to offer a better option, even if you may not necessarily be buying Quest apps in the Steam store. 

The official language from Facebook's post says:

"In early 2021 we'll offer a new way to distribute your work in the Quest ecosystem, allowing you to share your apps to anyone with a Quest, without having to be accepted into the Oculus Store and without sideloading. While we expect many developers will want to share their apps as broadly as possible, we also see this new channel as a way to test early-stage applications and distribute to specific users. The Oculus Platform policies will apply to all apps we distribute, and developers will still need to meet the obligations of our Oculus Content Policy. However, apps distributed through this new channel won't be held to the same technical standards as official Oculus Store apps."

As Facebook heads towards a likely Oculus Quest 2 and a future for VR that may leave the PC behind, having a way to put experimental apps on headsets like the Quest is a key next step. It looks like that's exactly what's happening. In addition to a growing support for business apps on the Oculus Store, these are the sorts of advances the Quest needs for VR to be functional. Facebook's still supporting the Oculus Rift for PC just like always, but if the Quest keeps evolving, who knows what will happen next?

Read more: Want an Oculus Quest? Inventory is limited -- but in stock now