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The GAMESbrief Glossary:
Reciprocity is one of the six Influence Principles which are used to persuade people to buy products or services.
The basic concept of Reciprocity is that people are predisposed to return favours. In other words, if you do something for a person, they feel obliged to do something in return. A classic example is the market stall which gives away small samples of their food. By taking a few samples of food to taste, you feel obligated to the stall owner and are much more likely to buy something (sometimes this even works if you didn’t actually like the food very much).
Free-to-Play games arguably have Reciprocity built in by their very nature, since you gave the game to the player for free – but Reciprocity works even better if you’re generous within the game itself, giving the player lots of free items and other giveaways.
The Influence Principles are based on Robert Cialdini’s book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, which you ought to read. The other five principles are Commitment, Social Proof, Authority, Likeability and Scarcity.