The Final Fantasy series has generally been known as the home of extensive single-player roleplaying game experiences. But 15 years ago, Final Fantasy XI changed all of that by taking the series to the online realm when it arrived on May 16, 2002.
The game is set apart from all previous entries in the series in that it is a massively multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORPG), meaning that players could create nearly any kind of character they wanted to play and go through the massive online world in any way they wanted. The story of FFXI was told through various missions that basically focused on defeating the resurrected Shadow Lord. The various expansions (Rise of the Zilart, Chains of Promanthia, Treasures of Aht Urhgan, Wings of the Goddess, and Seekers of Adoulin) enhanced and extended the story in numerous ways.
FFXI was thought of as an MMORPG after Hironobu Sakaguchi (the creator of the Final Fantasy series at large) spent time in Hawaii and was exposed to various western MMO games such as EverQuest. With the worlds of Final Fantasy being as rich as they are, applying the MMO style of gameplay seemed to make a lot of sense. The game was developed for both the PlayStation 2 and Windows PC, and the online nature of the game actually required the separate development of Square’s PlayOnline service to actually host and launch the game.
By being on both PS2 and PC, FFXI became the first cross-platform MMORPG created. It was later ported to the Xbox 360 in 2006, and by 2012 it was the most profitable Final Fantasy title in the franchise (largely due to the subscription fees required to play the game).