Game cloning: Protecting yourself from theft

There are few things more disheartening than having your brilliant game design stolen. Game cloning (the unscrupulous process of copying the core mechanics and gameplay loop of a released or in-development game) is a problem, especially in the mobile space. Thankfully, you can take steps to protect yourself.

Be careful where you work

One of the great things about passion projects is that we can’t stop working on them. You might be tempted to pull out your laptop at every opportunity. A few minutes before you board a flight or on the train can’t hurt, right?


It may seem like a one-in-a-million chance that someone will see something over your shoulder. However, major news stories have been willed into reality, because someone caught a developer working in public.

Sure, you might not be working on the next [insert your huge franchise of choice] game. But you could accidentally share the special feature that makes your game stand out. Likewise, you don’t want to playtest in full view of the public, if you aren’t ready to share your work with the world.

Keep a few secrets

Big publishers and developers often use a drip feed of public relations and marketing announcements to keep people interested from announcement to release. Smaller studios can benefit from the same process, but for a different reason.

If your game offers up something new and original, you don’t want to let that slip too early. Hold that information until it’s too late for anyone to copy the idea.

Game cloners can move blindingly fast, taking your big idea and blasting it onto mobile app stores before you know what’s happened. Don’t give them the chance to steal your secret sauce. Keep a few secrets along the way.

Use the law

Most regions have legal mechanisms to protect creative work. Consult an attorney and pursue copyright protection. This is an affordable process that can give you the way to take legal action against someone who steals your game.

Video game enthusiast media has often been friendly to developers whose work has been cloned. Don’t hesitate to reach out to reporters with your story to see if there’s interest in coverage.

You can read stories about developers who have been victims of cloning and how they fought back in The GameDev Business Handbook (available now in digital format).

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