This article addresses the tension between inspiration and imitation in game production based on semi-structured interviews with 20 German game professionals. Building on empirical copyright research and game production studies, we look into how game professionals draw the line between illegitimate imitation and accepted inspiration in their daily practice and professional routines. Our findings show that developers disapprove of the wholesale copying of one of a game’s main components – even in the case of the game’s rule set, which is not protected by copyright. However, as soon as a component is slightly adjusted, a complex mix of game features and external circumstances guides their evaluation. In contrast to prevailing copyright debates, though, game professionals reject stricter intellectual property protection, as, from a systemic perspective, they are concerned about innovation and genre development.