What are your thoughts whenever a dev claims their idea was stolen by a studio/publisher?

More than once, I’ve been working at a studio that’s had an unannounced game with new gameplay fairly far along the development process only to see another very similar game with very similar gameplay get announced by another publisher. At least one of these cases had more than one new game announced by different publishers all featuring similar (new) gameplay at around the same time. It is highly unlikely that industrial espionage took place and that these other publishers somehow got wise to our idea (or that we stole the idea from them). It is much more likely that there are so many creatives in the game industry that it isn’t uncommon for some of them to come up with similar good ideas around the same time, and that publishing executives evaluated those ideas and came to similar conclusions.

Beyond this, it’s important to remember that ideas themselves are cheap and common. Remember, the most important part of a game pitch is not necessarily [the idea itself, but the ability of the pitcher to make that idea real]. It takes at least a year (if not more) of development time to take a game from a pitch to something we can announce. During that time, a lot happens - the game idea gets put through a constant trial by fire as questions and problems arise from hammering out the details. Just how will this actually work beyond what’s on paper? What will we do about these technical issues? How do we teach the player how to do this? How do we actually build this kind of gameplay? Is it even feasible? 

Any person who claims the original “idea” probably never gave these kind of related issues any major thought - certainly not to the extent of assembling a full-time development team who are actually solving these problems. Dismissing all that work as rote or obvious does a huge disservice to the team’s contributions during that development time. And, if they actually do have a whole team finding solutions to those sorts of problems, they’ll almost certainly do things differently in many ways since the designer philosophy, technology, tools, and even IP will likely be different. The core gameplay idea for Fable Legends (announced in 2013, cancelled 2016) parallels Evolve (announced 2014, launched 2015) - asymmetric pvp with a team of players against a much more powerful single villain/foe player, but the details and implementation of both vary significantly.

TLDR - ideas are cheap and building a game is hard. There have been many cases of similar ideas being developed completely different teams and publishers at the same time. Claiming that somebody “stole an idea” does a huge disservice to the huge amount of work that the team has to do in order to take an idea and make it real.

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