Last updated

Industry Internet services
Computer software
Digital distribution
FoundedJanuary 28, 2000;19 years ago (2000-01-28)
Area served
Owner Square Enix Holdings
Parent Square Enix
Website   Blue pencil.svg

PlayOnline is an online gaming service created by Square (now Square Enix) on January 28, 2000, and has been the launcher application and Internet service for many of the online PC, PlayStation 2 and Xbox 360 games the company publishes. Games hosted included Front Mission Online , Fantasy Earth: The Ring of Dominion , Tetra Master , and the Japanese releases of EverQuest II , Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII and JongHoLo. As of 2018, the PC version of Final Fantasy XI is the only remaining game supported by the service.

Square Co., Ltd. was a Japanese video game company founded in September 1986 by Masafumi Miyamoto. It merged with Enix in 2003 to form Square Enix. The company also used SquareSoft as a brand name to refer to their games, and the term is occasionally used to refer to the company itself. In addition, "Square Soft, Inc" was the name of the company's American arm before the merger, after which it was renamed to "Square Enix, Inc".

Square Enix Japanese video game developer, publisher, and distribution company

Square Enix Holdings Co., Ltd. is a Japanese video game developer, publisher, and distribution company known for its Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, and Kingdom Hearts role-playing video game franchises, among numerous others. Several of them have sold over 10 million copies worldwide, with the Final Fantasy franchise alone selling 144 million, the Dragon Quest franchise selling 78 million and the Kingdom Hearts franchise selling 30 million. The Square Enix headquarters are in the Shinjuku Eastside Square Building in Shinjuku, Tokyo. The company employs over 4300 employees worldwide.

PlayStation 2 sixth-generation and second home video game console developed by Sony Interactive Entertainment

The PlayStation 2 (PS2) is a home video game console developed and marketed by Sony Computer Entertainment. It was first released in Japan on March 4, 2000, in North America on October 26, 2000, and in Europe and Australia in November 2000, and is the successor to the original PlayStation, as well as the second installment in the PlayStation console lineup. As a sixth generation console, the PS2 competed with Sega's Dreamcast, Nintendo's GameCube, and Microsoft's Xbox.


PlayOnline was one of the first cross-platform gaming services and hosted hundreds of thousands of players at its peak. It was shut down for twelve days during the 2011 earthquake in Japan. The platform was also subjected to denial of service attacks and players attempting to cheat were subsequently banned. Starting with Final Fantasy XIV , Square Enix began moving their online games off the service as membership declined. The termination date for Final Fantasy XI and PlayOnline on PlayStation 2 and Xbox 360 was March 2016, with only the PC version of Final Fantasy XI still supported.

2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami magnitude 9.0 - 9.1 (Mw) undersea megathrust earthquake off the coast of Japan that occurred at 14:46 JST (05:46 UTC) on 11 March 2011

The 2011 earthquake off the Pacific coast of Tōhoku was a magnitude 9.0–9.1 (Mw) undersea megathrust earthquake off the coast of Japan that occurred at 14:46 JST on Friday 11 March 2011, with the epicentre approximately 70 kilometres (43 mi) east of the Oshika Peninsula of Tōhoku and the hypocenter at an underwater depth of approximately 29 km (18 mi). The earthquake is often referred to in Japan as the Great East Japan Earthquake and is also known as the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake, the Great Sendai Earthquake, the Great Tōhoku Earthquake, and the 3.11 earthquake.

<i>Final Fantasy XIV</i> (2010 video game) video game

Final Fantasy XIV is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) for Microsoft Windows personal computers, developed and published by Square Enix in 2010. It is the fourteenth entry in the main Final Fantasy series and the second MMORPG in the series after Final Fantasy XI. Set in the fantasy realm of Eorzea, players take control of a customized avatar as they explore the land and are caught up in both an invasion by the hostile Garlean Empire and the threat of the Primals, the deities of the land's Beastmen tribes. Eventually, they are embroiled in a plot by a Garlean Legatus to destroy the Primals by bringing one of the planet's moons down on Eorzea.



PlayOnline was originally conceived as an all-in-one solution to house multiple types of game content. [1] At the "Square Millennium" event in Japan on January 28, 2000, Square announced three Final Fantasy games, including Final Fantasy XI , to be released in the summer of 2001, and that Square had been working on an online portal called "PlayOnline" with Japanese telecom company NTT Communications, and would feature online games, chat, email, online comics, Internet browsing, online shopping, sports, and instant messaging. [2] The service was first announced as costing ¥500 for monthly membership and a ¥1000 monthly user fee. [3] Final Fantasy XI , then nicknamed "Final Fantasy Online", was the first game to use the online service. [3] The WonderSwan Color portable gaming system was also planned to be able to connect to PlayOnline through an adapter connected to one of the PlayStation 2's USB ports. [4] PlayOnline opened on June 6, 2000 to both Japanese and English speaking countries with news about upcoming software titles, interviews, and wallpapers. [5] The site's merchandise included pieces from Parasite Eve , Vagrant Story , Chocobo Racing , Front Mission , Chrono Cross , and Final Fantasy . [6]

NTT Communications

NTT Communications or NTT Com, is a subsidiary of Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT) Corporation, the largest telecommunications company in Japan and one of the largest worldwide. NTT Com provides network management, security and solution services to consumers, corporations and governments.

Instant messaging form of communication over the Internet

Instant messaging (IM) technology is a type of online chat that offers real-time text transmission over the Internet. A LAN messenger operates in a similar way over a local area network. Short messages are typically transmitted between two parties, when each user chooses to complete a thought and select "send". Some IM applications can use push technology to provide real-time text, which transmits messages character by character, as they are composed. More advanced instant messaging can add file transfer, clickable hyperlinks, Voice over IP, or video chat.

<i>Parasite Eve</i> 1995 novel by Hideaki Sena

Parasite Eve is a Japanese science fiction horror novel by Hideaki Sena, first published by Kadokawa in 1995. The book was published in North America by Vertical, Inc. in 2005.

To encourage early adoption prior to the release of Final Fantasy XI, Square partnered with BradyGames to publish a paperback strategy guide for Final Fantasy IX . The guide became notorious for barely containing any actual guidance. Instead, it asked players multiple times on each page to visit PlayOnline to obtain the solutions to puzzles, etc. [7]

Strategy guides are instruction books that contain hints or complete solutions to specific video games. The line between strategy guides and walkthroughs is somewhat blurred, with the former often containing or being written around the latter. Strategy guides are often published in print, both in book form and also as articles within video game magazines. In cases of exceptionally popular game titles, guides may be sold through more mainstream publication channels, such as bookstores or even newsstands. Some publishers also sell E-Book versions on their websites.

<i>Final Fantasy IX</i> 2000 video game

Final Fantasy IX is a 2000 role-playing video game developed and published by Squaresoft for the PlayStation video game console. It is the ninth game in the main Final Fantasy series and the last to debut on the original PlayStation. The plot centers on the consequences of a war between nations in a medieval fantasy world called Gaia. Players follow bandit Zidane Tribal, who kidnaps Alexandrian princess Garnet Til Alexandros XVII as part of a gambit by the neighboring nation of Lindblum. He joins Garnet and a growing cast of characters on a quest to take down her mother, Queen Brahne of Alexandria, who started the war. The plot shifts when the player learns that Brahne is a pawn of a more menacing threat, Kuja, who shares a mysterious history with Zidane spanning two worlds.


PlayOnline was seen as part of Sony's strategy to turn the PlayStation 2 into an Internet set-top box. Accordingly, Sony brought broadband equipment and a hard drive to the PlayStation 2. [8] The quality of the browser was noted in its "clean" graphics, excellent page layouts, and "high quality sound". [8] The browser was not a general purpose Internet tool, but only accessed Square content, such as news about Square products and a comic-strip walkthrough of Final Fantasy XI . [8]

Sony Japanese multinational conglomerate corporation

Sony Corporation is a Japanese multinational conglomerate corporation headquartered in Kōnan, Minato, Tokyo. Its diversified business includes consumer and professional electronics, gaming, entertainment and financial services. The company owns the largest music entertainment business in the world, the largest video game console business and one of the largest video game publishing businesses, and is one of the leading manufacturers of electronic products for the consumer and professional markets, and a leading player in the film and television entertainment industry. Sony was ranked 97th on the 2018 Fortune Global 500 list.

Set-top box information appliance device

A set-top box (STB) or set-top unit (STU) is an information appliance device that generally contains a TV-tuner input and displays output to a television set and an external source of signal, turning the source signal into content in a form that can then be displayed on the television screen or other display device. They are used in cable television, satellite television, and over-the-air television systems, as well as other uses.

Porting Final Fantasy XI to the Xbox proved difficult due to compatibility issues greater than was hoped for between Xbox Live and PlayOnline, likely because the latter was designed first. [9] After negotiation, Xbox 360 players were able to play the game through PlayOnline's servers exclusively, despite Microsoft's initial wish that Square Enix would use its own platform. [9] Downloadable content was also not available on the platform since the game played through PlayOnline. [9] It was hoped that content would eventually be offered through the Xbox Live Marketplace. [9] Final Fantasy XII started out as a game designed for the PlayOnline game platform. [10]

Xbox is a video gaming brand created and owned by Microsoft. It represents a series of video game consoles developed by Microsoft, with three consoles released in the sixth, seventh, and eighth generations, respectively. The brand also represents applications (games), streaming services, an online service by the name of Xbox Live, and the development arm by the name of Xbox Game Studios. The brand was first introduced in the United States in November 2001, with the launch of the original Xbox console.

Xbox Live online multiplayer gaming and digital media delivery service

Xbox Live is an online multiplayer gaming and digital media delivery service created and operated by Microsoft. It was first made available to the Xbox system in November 2002. An updated version of the service became available for the Xbox 360 console at the system's launch in November 2005, and a further enhanced version was released in 2013 with the Xbox One.

The Xbox 360 is a home video game console developed by Microsoft. As the successor to the original Xbox, it is the second console in the Xbox series. It competed with Sony's PlayStation 3 and Nintendo's Wii as part of the seventh generation of video game consoles. It was officially unveiled on MTV on May 12, 2005, with detailed launch and game information announced later that month at the 2005 Electronic Entertainment Expo.

Security and outages

In February 2005, 800 players were banned from the card game Tetra Master and from Final Fantasy XI for monopolizing areas where high level items and monsters would spawn, making it impossible for other players to become stronger. [11] In March 2009, Square Enix announced a new security system for players beginning April 6, 2009, involving a security token players could purchase for $9.99 and including an in-game bonus called a "Mog Satchel". [12] On April 9, 2005, a distributed denial of service attack against PlayOnline's servers shut down Final Fantasy XI access for players in North America and Europe for three hours: the attack continued for over a week, leading Square Enix to involve law enforcement. [13] At the time, Square Enix did not reveal if the Japanese server which hosted Front Mission Online , Fantasy Earth , and Japanese players of EverQuest II were affected. [13]

After Japan's 2011 earthquake, Square Enix voluntarily disabled servers to conserve energy due to the incapacitated state of the region's nuclear power plant. This led to a temporary halt of the Final Fantasy XIV, Final Fantasy XI, and PlayOnline games and services from March 13 to 25. [14] [15] During the power shortage, air conditioning and lighting was reduced, and the subscription fees for Final Fantasy XI were waived for the month of April. [15]


In June 2009, Square Enix announced they had decided not to use PlayOnline for Final Fantasy XIV due to the marked decrease of content on the service. [1] Instead, they would migrate to a new service that still allowed cross-platform gameplay, including the use of a universal Square Enix ID that would allow players to play from wherever they left off. [1] In June 2011, Square Enix announced that they would merge the account management portion of the PlayOnline service into Square Enix accounts from July 2011 and culminate on August 31, 2011. [16] However, PlayOnline is still required in order to actually play Final Fantasy XI . [16] Square Enix replicated the idea of the friends list from Final Fantasy XI in Final Fantasy XIV. [17] The termination date of service for Final Fantasy XI and PlayOnline for PlayStation 2 and Xbox 360 was March 2016. [18]


In December 2001, Square Enix projected it would have 250,000 users by the end of 2001, and 400,000 by year end 2002: the service charged $10 per person, and thus needed 200,000 participants to break even. [19]

On January 7, 2004, Square Enix announced they had more than 500,000 registered users on the PlayOnline gaming service, and slightly under one million active players. [20] In September 2004, Square Enix stated they had 1.2 million characters, with most players having two to three characters. [21] In May 2005, Front Mission Online became the second game to utilize the service, retailing at ¥7,140 with a monthly subscription price of ¥1,344. [22] In June 2009, a San Francisco, California resident sued Square Enix for "deceptive advertising, unfair competition, and unjust enrichment" from Final Fantasy XI , and sought a $5 million settlement. [23]

Composer Nobuo Uematsu stated that Square's efforts to push forward with online gaming was important to the video game industry's development. [24] The PlayOnline Viewer was criticized as being nothing more than a longer way to get to Final Fantasy XI 's content. [25] The game also had unmoderated chat rooms that ended up with explicit content. [25] The interface was also described as "clunky", with "strange functional restrictions". [25]

Related Research Articles

Final Fantasy is a media franchise created by Hironobu Sakaguchi and owned by Square Enix that includes video games, motion pictures, and other merchandise. The series began in 1987 as an eponymous role-playing video game developed by Square, spawning a video game series that became the central focus of the franchise. The music of the Final Fantasy series refers to the soundtracks of the Final Fantasy series of video games, as well as the surrounding medley of soundtrack, arranged, and compilation albums. The series' music ranges from very light background music to emotionally intense interweavings of character and situation leitmotifs.

<i>Final Fantasy XIII</i> 2010 role-playing video game

Final Fantasy XIII is a science fiction role-playing video game developed and published by Square Enix for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 consoles and later for the Microsoft Windows operating system. Released in Japan in December 2009 and worldwide in March 2010, it is the thirteenth title in the mainline Final Fantasy series. The game includes fast-paced combat, a new system for the series for determining which abilities are developed for the characters called "Crystarium", and a customizable "Paradigm" system to control which abilities are used by the characters. Final Fantasy XIII includes elements from the previous games in the series, such as summoned monsters, chocobos, and airships.

Motomu Toriyama video game designer

Motomu Toriyama is a Japanese game director and scenario writer who has been working for Square Enix since 1994. He initially worked on cutscenes in Bahamut Lagoon and Final Fantasy VII. Toriyama started directing with Final Fantasy X-2 and has continued doing so with large-scale projects such as Final Fantasy XIII and its sequels Final Fantasy XIII-2 and Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII. Since 2003, he has been directing his own team of scenario writers at the company. He is currently directing Mobius Final Fantasy and is a member of Square Enix's Business Division 1, and part of the Final Fantasy Committee that is tasked with keeping the franchise's releases and content consistent.

<i>Final Fantasy XV</i> action role-playing video game

Final Fantasy XV is an action role-playing game developed and published by Square Enix as part of the long-running Final Fantasy series. It was released for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in 2016, and for Microsoft Windows in 2018. The game features an open world environment and action-based battle system, incorporating quick-switching weapons, elemental magic, and other features such as vehicle travel and camping. The base campaign was later expanded with downloadable content (DLC), adding further gameplay options such as additional playable characters and multiplayer.

<i>Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King</i> video game

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King, released in Japan as Chiisana Ōsama to Yakusoku no Kuni: Fainaru Fantajī Kurisutaru Kuronikuru(小さな王様と約束の国 ファイナルファンタジー・クリスタルクロニクル, lit. The Little King and the Promised Kingdom: Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles), is a video game developed for the WiiWare service of the Wii console by Square Enix. Square Enix decided to make a game for the WiiWare service that would be high profile, and it was decided that the game would be a simulation game and, later in development, a Final Fantasy title.

<i>Crystal Defenders</i> video game

Crystal Defenders is a set of two tower defense video games developed and published by Square Enix. The games use the setting of Ivalice and design elements from Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift, forming part of the wider Final Fantasy franchise. The games feature a selection of characters sporting Final Fantasy-based character classes, and play out tower defense scenarios against recurring series of monsters. The first game in the series is Crystal Guardians, which was released in three parts for Japanese mobile phones in 2008. It was adapted for iOS later that year as Square Enix's first game for the platform, and renamed to Crystal Defenders. Under that name, the game was also released between 2009 and 2011 for Android, Xbox Live Arcade, WiiWare, and PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable via the PlayStation Store. It was re-released with graphical improvements for iOS as Crystal Defenders Plus in 2013. A sequel, Crystal Defenders: Vanguard Storm, was released for iOS in 2009.

The Japanese video game developer and publisher Square Enix has been translating its games for North America since the late 1980s, and the PAL region and Asia since the late 1990s. It has not always released all of its games in all major regions, and continues to selectively release games even today depending on multiple factors such as the viability of platforms or the condition of the game itself. The process of localization has changed during that time from having a one-person team with a short time and tight memory capacities to having a team of translators preparing simultaneous launches in multiple languages.

<i>Final Fantasy XIII-2</i> video game

Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a role-playing video game developed and published by Square Enix for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Released in 2011 in Japan and 2012 in North America and PAL regions, it is a direct sequel to the 2009 role-playing game Final Fantasy XIII and is part of the Fabula Nova Crystallis subseries. A port to Microsoft Windows was released on Steam in December 2014 followed by iOS and Android in September 2015. XIII-2 includes modified features from the previous game, including fast-paced combat and a customizable "Paradigm" system to control which abilities are used by the characters, and adds a new system that allows monsters to be captured and used in battle. It features a heavy time travel element, allowing the player to jump between different times at the same location or different places at the same time. Lightning, the protagonist of the original game, has disappeared into an unknown world. Her younger sister Serah Farron, a returning character, and a young man named Noel Kreiss, journey through time in an attempt to find Lightning.

<i>Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII</i> 2013 video game

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is an action role-playing video game developed and published by Square Enix for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. It was released in November 2013 for Japan and February 2014 for North America, Australia and Europe. A port to Microsoft Windows through Steam was released in December 2015 followed by iOS and Android in Japan during February 2016. The game is a direct sequel to Final Fantasy XIII-2, concludes the storyline of Final Fantasy XIII, and forms part of the Fabula Nova Crystallis subseries. Lightning Returns employs a highly revamped version of the gameplay system from the previous two games, with an action-oriented battle system, the ability to customize the player character's outfits, and a time limit the player must extend by completing story missions and side quests.

<i>Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster</i> video game

Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster is a high-definition remaster of the role-playing video games Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy X-2, originally developed by Square on the PlayStation 2 in the early 2000s. It also features story content previously only found in the International versions, and a new audio drama set a year after the events of X-2. The collection saw graphical and musical revisions and is based on the international versions of both games, making certain content accessible to players outside of Japan for the first time.

Final Fantasy is a media franchise created by Hironobu Sakaguchi, and developed and owned by Square Enix. The franchise centers on a series of fantasy and science fantasy role-playing video games (RPGs). The eponymous first game in the series, published in 1987, was conceived by Sakaguchi as his last-ditch effort in the game industry; the title was a success and spawned sequels. While most entries in the series are separate from each other, they have recurring elements carrying over between entries: these include plot themes and motifs, gameplay mechanics such as the Active Time Battle (ATB) system, and signature character designs from the likes of Yoshitaka Amano and Tetsuya Nomura.


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