Oculus has added seamless integration for applications purchased outside of its ecosystem, which will allow users to launch games purchased through Steam for the first time.
Previously, Rift users had only been able to launch compatible Steam games via the PC desktop, and even then only once the feature had been enabled in a settings menu. However, as Techcrunch pointed out, it was only possible to see and launch software purchased from the Oculus store while wearing the headset.
However, in an update released last Friday, Oculus added a new feature that will allow Rift users to switch to "off-platform apps" without the necessity of breaking immersion. According to the patch notes: "You can now quickly launch all apps that support Rift from within the Oculus software, even if you acquired those apps from outside the Oculus Store."
Oculus PC 1.17 is rolling out - Parties chat system, launch off-platform apps, system & app release notes. https://t.co/5Zz6vOtmPk— Brendan Iribe (@brendaniribe) August 4, 2017
This is no doubt informed by the huge popularity of Steam, both as a platform for VR apps and games in general. Last week, in a talk at Casual Connect, Valve said that the platform had gained 27 million new users in the last 18 months alone. Given the amount of VR software available on Steam, it's reasonable to assume that many gamers would see it as their distribution platform of choice
This is a step towards a more open landscape that industry figures like Epic's Tim Sweeney believe VR needs to build an audience and fulfill its potential. Oculus continues to subsidise developers working on VR games, often in exchange for a period of timed exclusivity on the Oculus Store.
The highly praised Superhot VR, for example, was created with significant assistance from Oculus, and it is now available for both Vive and PSVR.