Google unveils Game Servers in beta, for hosting global, multi-player games

The new managed service is a souped up version of Agones, the open-source game hosting platform built on top of Kubernetes.

Google on Monday rolled out Game Servers in beta, a managed service designed to simplify the management of global, multi-cluster game server fleets. Game Servers is effectively an enhanced version of Agones, the open-source game hosting platform built on top of Kubernetes, which Google debuted with Ubisoft in 2018. 

The goal of Game Servers is to take the work out of hosting massive, multi-player games like Fortnite or Call of Duty. Typically, game developers rely on dedicated servers to host multi-player experiences, but hosting and scaling a game server fleet to support a global multi-player game can be challenging. Players around the world are connected and communicating, all watching the same environment and the real-time actions all other players are taking. It requires extremely low latency to make this work. 

To handle this challenge, many game companies either choose to build costly proprietary solutions or use pre-packaged solutions that limit developer control. Agones offers an open-source alternative for server hosting and scaling. And while Agones is well-suited for managing regional game server clusters, Game Servers takes those capabilities global, eliminating the need to manage individual Agones environments. 

With Game Servers, you can group Kubernetes clusters into different "realms" based on latency requirements and then set server configurations and scaling policies across realms. For instance, you could build a West Coast realm that encompasses clusters in the Google Cloud Platform us-west1 region and us-west2 region. 

You can also increase your reserved capacity of game servers for specific dates or events, and you can automate scaling to account for peak hours across regions. 

For now, Game Servers supports clusters running on Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE), and Google plans on adding hybrid and multi-cloud support later this year. Google also plans on adding more advanced scaling policies and a deeper integration with its open source matchmaking framework, Open Match

Developers who are already running Agones in production workloads can opt into the managed service by registering Agones-managed game server clusters with the new Game Servers API. They can opt out at any time.

The gaming industry is sizable and growing -- reaching around $148.8 billion in 2019, according to research firm Newzoo. It makes sense for Google Cloud to go after that market as it steps up its vertical-specific focus. Aside from offering Google Cloud solutions, the tech giant can offer end-to-end collaboration solutions that include, for instance, YouTube as a streaming partner for live broadcasts or e-sporting events.