Copying within the games industry is prevalent. Some people attribute this to the fact that this is just the way it is and has always been within the industry. This is often premised on the notion that the "idea" for a game is not protectable. But as the game market grows, so to do the losses from copying suffered by the game innovators.
One of the biggest factors contributing to this is that many game developers do not develop comprehensive strategies for protecting the valuable intellectual property that they create. This is generally due to several reasons. One is that historically, intellectual property has just not been a big focus for many in the industry. The other is that many people are not aware of the range of options available for protecting IP in the game space and what aspects of games are protectable. This is often due to some common misunderstandings about intellectual property, particularly with respect to the patentability of game features.
While it is true that one can not protect the "idea" for a game, this does not end the inquiry. Many aspects of games are protectable by patents, copyright and trademarks. Of these, patents are probably the most overlooked and least understood. While this applies to all types of games, there are particularly compelling opportunities to patent many of the innovative aspects of social and online games. This is due in part to the many recent developments in the relevant technology and business models for these games. Prudent developers and publishers will seize these opportunities to develop a comprehensive IP protection strategy.