March 18, 2018

Hosting video games using Kubernetes—as Google’s new open source Agones project allows you to do—may not be the first Kubernetes use case that comes to mind. But it speaks volumes about just how much admins can now achieve with Kubernetes.

On March 13, Google announced the release of Agones, an open source project that uses Kubernetes to host game servers.

Developed in collaboration with video game company Ubisoft, Agones (which, in case you’re wondering, is Greek for contest or gathering) is designed to enable game servers to be deployed as containers on Kubernetes.

As Google developer advocate Mark Mandel explains in the blog post announcing Agones, the project aims to solve a deep-seated challenge for video game providers. Currently, most game server hosting solutions are proprietary. Building a massively scalable platform that can spin game servers up and down constantly as matches begin and end, while also keeping games in sync for multiple players spread across different geographic locations, traditionally has been beyond the reach of most organizations.

Google and Ubisoft hope the Agones project will change this. Using a custom Kubernetes Controller and custom resource definitions, the project leverages the platform’s natural ability to host highly dynamic workloads to run game servers as containers.

This is not the first open source project of its type. Linux Game Server Managers provides a similar open source for hosting game servers solution, but without the developer-friendly integration of Agones.

Pushing the Bounds of Kubernetes

Unless you are a close follower of video game industry news, you might not find Agones particularly interesting.

However, beyond the fact that the project provides a new way to host video servers on an open source platform, it’s intriguing because it highlights just how diverse Kubernetes use cases are.

The typical use case involves deploying a web app using containers that are orchestrated via Kubernetes. The prospect of deploying business applications and websites in this way rather than having to use resource-hungry virtual machines is what helped to make Docker, Kubernetes and containers so popular.

Agones, however, is an example of how Kubernetes can solve a specific challenge within a particular vertical—in this case, the video game industry—in which Docker containers have not yet made a large impact. It shows that Kubernetes’s value is much broader than deploying basic web apps.

It’s worth noting that Agones requires game servers to be containerized. Not all games are available in that format, particularly those that run on Windows. However, a surprising number of game server containers can be freely downloaded from GitHub (and some appear to use Wine to host Windows-based game servers). And there is a longer history within the gaming industry of leveraging containers to improve efficiency. Agones builds on that momentum.

So, although the containerization of the video game industry may still be within its early stages, there’s a good chance that, sooner or later, you’ll have Docker and Kubernetes to thank for the next MMO or MOBA that you play to kill time at work.

Christopher Tozzi

Christopher Tozzi has covered technology and business news for nearly a decade, specializing in open source, containers, big data, networking and security. He is currently Senior Editor and DevOps Analyst with and