The Hardest Part of Final Fantasy XI Is Logging Into Final Fantasy XI

Dispatches from Vana’diel.

Final Fantasy XI official art
Square Enix
Final Fantasy

In 2024 I have finally decided to jump on the Final Fantasy XI bandwagon. And you might ask, “Willa, why are you playing a twenty-year-old MMO when Final Fantasy XIV is right there?” Well, because I think I can play both — and after reading a handful of compelling pieces released around Final Fantasy XI’s anniversary, I can’t not try the game out! So here we are — documenting the start of my Final Fantasy XI journey in 2024.

And my first observation is that logging into Final Fantasy XI blows, man!

Yes, Final Fantasy XI is a twenty-year-old game. So, I shouldn’t expect the log-in experience to be as smooth as a modern MMO, but I didn’t know how outdated it would feel. The biggest question I have, though, is why it’s so convoluted when the game still gets consistent updates. Surely streamlining the process at some point would have been a good idea. And if you are thinking to yourself that surely it can’t be that bad, well then let me regale you with my tale of installing and logging into Final Fantasy XI for the first time.

Step 1 — Purchase and Download the Game

Simple enough. Final Fantasy XI: Ultimate Collection Seekers Edition was on sale for $9.99 during the Steam Winter sale so I bought it in preparation to make 2024 the year of Final Fantasy XI. Then I hit download. Seemed to go smoothly. Then I launched the game.

This is when things get complicated.

Step 2 — Register the Game

PlayOnline is my most hated Final Fantasy villain.

Square Enix / Twitter user @EmUnArum

Installing Final Fantasy XI actually downloads the game and the PlayOnline launcher, which is so extremely 2000s. I mean this in the best and worst way possible. It is not the easiest-to-navigate launcher, but damn, if I don’t love its early internet aesthetics. But buying the game doesn’t let you start playing through PlayOnline immediately. First, you have to have a Square Enix account and log into the account management site.

From here, I had to navigate a series of menus and submenus till I reached the option to add a service account for Final Fantasy XI. Now back to Steam where I have to grab a CD key and enter that into the empty field on the Square Enix site. Done. Surely now I can play Final Fantasy XI, right? Wrong!

Step 3 — Log Into PlayOnline

Registering your game on the Square Enix account management site will send you an email full of login information that you must use to log in to PlayOnline in addition to having your Square Enix account info.

Launching PlayOnline, I am finally able to log in with all that important information sent to my email and set up an account. Once inside PlayOnline, I need to click on my ID again and log in again, this time using my Square Enix account info. From here I finally navigate to the Final Fantasy XI page within PlayOnline and click the big ‘Play’ button.... and am told that I can’t play yet. OK, so what is next?

Step 4 — Set Up a Subscription

With my PlayOnline log-in all setup, it’s back to the Square Enix account management site, where I navigate back to the PlayOnline section and find the Options List section which then gives me the ability to click the Add new options box.

This is essentially the Final Fantasy XI subscription page. Final Fantasy XI still has a base subscription that runs $12.95 a month and then even more depending on how many characters you have on your account. Thanks to purchasing the Ultimate Collection Seekers Edition I get a month free, but you can also get a free fourteen-day trial.

Step 5: Play Final Fantasy XI (Or Maybe Not Actually)

I’m going to hit that Play button. Just not now.

Square Enix

With a subscription set up, I am now ready to re-open PlayOnline and navigate back to that enticing Play button. Clicking it starts a large update download. A super fun fact about this is that this download apparently has a capped download speed, so no matter what it will take a very long time (over an hour) to complete.

I wait patiently until the download finally completes. I stare at the big ‘Play’ button one more time. Then I quit PlayOnline.

I know I did all this work to start my journey in Final Fantasy XI, but this was exhausting and I am not ready to commit to spending time choosing a server, creating a character, and actually starting to play the game. You’ll have to wait for my next update to find out what the world of Vana’diel is like.

And if you are interested in getting in on Final Fantasy XI then read up on this detailed Twitter thread that guides you through the step-by-step process of installing Final Fantasy XI in the easiest way possible. Even with it to aid my journey, PlayOnline still gave me issues.

Square Enix, it’s never too late to update this. Please. I beg of you.

Final Fantasy XI is available on PC.

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