PlayOnline is an online gaming service created by Square Co. (now Square Enix), and is used as a hub for all online PC, PlayStation 2 and Xbox 360 games the company publishes. Currently, games such as Final Fantasy XI, Tetra Master, and JongHoLo (Japan Only) are supported by the service. Games previously supported were Front Mission Online, Fantasy Earth: The Ring of Dominion, the Japanese release of EverQuest II and Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII.
Initially, PlayOnline was a subsite of Squaresoft.com and contained content such as online strategy guides and special sites for games published by Square (starting with Final Fantasy IX). It was introduced at the time of Final Fantasy IX's release, in which PlayOnline.com featured an online strategy guide that worked in conjunction with the printed version of the guide published by BradyGames. This subsite no longer exists, however. Square Enix integrated the site's features into their own site at Square-Enix.com , in order to put up a site for the U.S. release of Final Fantasy XI.
Present day PlayOnline.com
PlayOnline.com now links to the Japanese PlayOnline site, which contains links to individual game sites and explanations of PlayOnline features. On the U.S. and European PlayOnline.com sites, both sites contain information solely on Final Fantasy XI, Tetra Master and PlayOnline features.
Any person over the age of 13 can sign up for a PlayOnline account. The person signing up must give their credit card number; however, several services - such as e-mail, IM, and Friend Lists - are free of charge to the subscriber.
When playing a PlayOnline game, a person will have to purchase a Content ID. The Content ID allows users to subscribe to a particular game, for a monthly fee. This is required in order to play the online games, and incorporates the free features of the service.
When a player first buys a PlayOnline game, they will receive an Activation Code, and not unlike Microsoft Windows XP must be typed in to gain access to that game's features. At that point, the subscriber may choose to continue purchasing Content ID's every month, on a subscription basis.
In certain games, Players may also purchase more playable characters, and customize them as he/she wants. The added costs will be presented in the month-to-month bills.
In order to prevent theft, Square Enix has elected to use a numeric based user name. As a player logs-in through the PlayOnline viewer, they must enter a unique ID Number, used to identify them, and a password. The Player ID is presented after the player signs-up for the service, and cannot be changed or chosen. In addition to this, the user has the option of adding additional measures of security by signing up for a separate Square Enix account, linking them together and purchasing a small security token. The token generates a random number that's used as a one-time password.
The user's default PlayOnline e-mail account is also randomized, however, unlike the Player ID, it can be customized through use of the PlayOnline Plus service, which allows users to select one of their Final Fantasy XI characters, and use their name as the account name.
On the Xbox 360 version of the Viewer, the user is required to link their PlayOnline account with an Xbox Live Gamertag. Once a Gamertag is linked, it cannot be undone, and the same Gamertag cannot be used to link to another PlayOnline Account.
PlayOnline is accessed through a program called the PlayOnline Viewer. This program is used to access online games, extra features (such as access to Square Enix Mobile downloads for Verizon Wireless and AT&T customers, as well as Viewer downloads like wallpapers and e-mail greeting cards), news and information about PlayOnline and its games, chatrooms, e-mail, and a personal Friend List to keep track of people met on the service. PlayOnline service is free, but games under the service branch require paid subscriptions, as well as some advanced features offered in a service called PlayOnline Plus, like a unique e-mail address based on the names of characters in PlayOnline services. PlayOnline does not have any Internet browsing software.
Currently, PlayOnline can be accessed through the PC, PS2 (Japan and North America), or Xbox 360 version of Final Fantasy XI (in all regions). The software is not available as a stand-alone program.
Future of PlayOnline
In an official Press Release from Square Enix, Final Fantasy XIV, another MMORPG in the same vein as Final Fantasy XI, will not use the PlayOnline service or Viewer. In fact, the only transferable things will be friends in the user's friends list. There are currently no plans to end the existing PlayOnline service.