Meta Is Still Testing 'Avalanche' VR Cloud Streaming To Let Quest Play Rift Games

Meta’s long-in-development ‘Avalanche’ PC VR cloud streaming system appeared on a French outlet’s Quest 3.

The “Activate Avalanche (Alpha)” option appeared in the Experimental section of the settings of one of GamerGen’s Quest 3 headsets, as demonstrated during a recent livestream.



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Clip from GamerGen’s livestream.

The description of the setting translates to “Launch an Avalanche session using the cloud gaming endpoint”. When activating it GamerGen was offered to play Lone Echo, a blockbuster Oculus Rift game from 2017 that hasn’t been ported to Quest.

However, actually attempting to launch it resulted in an error that translates to “Unable to launch the Avalanche session”, with a description of “An error occurred while launching the Avalanche session, please check your network and try again.”

Project Avalanche

The existence of Avalanche was first revealed in April 2022 when Quest firmware dataminer Samulia found a flag AVALANCHE_CLOUD_GAMING_INFRA_ENABLED, added in v24. Version 24 shipped in late 2020, suggesting Avalanche has been in development for at least four years now.

One month later, two years ago now, a redditor posted a screenshot showing an “Enable Avalanche (Alpha)” option in the Experimental settings of their Quest 2, very similar to the option that appeared for GamerGen, writing the following:

I pressed it, it said “finding server” for 20 seconds or so, and then loaded [PC] oculus home. For about 15 seconds, it was really decent framerate, but with a little bit of lag, then a spinning ring came up and stayed like that.

Anyone else got this working?

YouTuber Brad Lynch claimed on X that the redditor directly contacted him about their experience, saying “they were able to get into a totally remote game of Asgards Wrath via a UK Wifi5 session”. The original Asgard’s Wrath was another flagship Rift game, shipped in 2019, and also hasn’t been ported to Quest, though of course it did get an even bigger scale sequel.

Between 2016 and 2021 Facebook invested hundreds of millions of dollars to ship a number of PC Oculus Rift blockbusters like Lone Echo and Asgard’s Wrath. While these games can be played on Quest today via a gaming PC over Wi-Fi or USB, most Quest users don’t own a gaming PC, so Avalanche could bring them to a much wider audience.

Of course, the experience of cloud streaming heavily depends on the quality of the user’s internet connection. There is a potential for high latency if the server is far away, and for judder caused by packet loss if the connection quality is poor. In late 2020 John Carmack had this to say, comparing it to local network streaming: “obviously it’s even worse, obviously more people are going to find that unacceptable and it will be a terrible experience for more people, but still I am quite confident that for some people in some situations it’s still going to be quite valuable”.

In 2020 Facebook Gaming VP Jason Rubin described cloud VR gaming as more than five years out. But some Quest owners have been doing it for years now using third-party tools and services.

PlutoSphere Shuts Down As Meta Keeps Cloud VR Streaming Ban
PlutoSphere is shutting down, as Meta maintains its cloud VR streaming ban on the Quest Store and App Lab.

Virtual Desktop supports streaming from a PC outside your local network, which some Quest owners have paired with Shadow’s cloud PC service to play SteamVR games without a PC. PlutoSphere even offered a managed service with pay-as-you-go pricing via tokens, though it shut down in March citing Meta’s ban on cloud VR streaming in its Quest Store & App Lab policies.

So if Meta does ship its own cloud VR streaming feature any time soon, it could face accusations of anti-competitive practices. It would be a similar situation to Virtual Desktop’s PC VR Wi-Fi streaming, which Meta banned from the platform until just before it launched its own Air Link feature. In 2022 Bloomberg reported that the US FTC was investigating Meta’s competitive practices, but there haven’t been any further reports on the status of this investigation.

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