The release (re-release?) of Square's Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn has been a huge success. The game sold far better than the company imagined, and from what we've been hearing, subscription numbers are also higher than expected. It shouldn't be much of a surprise to learn that the company is eager to get the PlayStation 4 version of the title out to the masses as quickly as possible.
Let's get the best news out of the way first. All PlayStation 3 owners of Final Fantasy XIV will be able to upgrade to the PlayStation 4 version of the title for free. Your character will transfer over with no issue, and you'll be able to pick up right where you left off. The only catch is that if you upgrade to the free PS4 version, you won't retain access to the PS3 version. So if you want it for free, you're basically only allowed to play on one console version. You'll still have the option of buying the PS4 version if you want access to both, but we imagine most people will opt for the free upgrade.
Much like Final Fantasy XI, you can play your character from A Realm Reborn on any platform. For example, if you own the PC and PS4 versions of the game, you can switch between the two at will and it won't have any impact on your playing. Think of it like a service that can be accessed from a variety of platforms. The only thing that doesn't transfer are your macros, hot bar configurations, and preset gear changes. There's no word on whether or not Square will find a way to transfer those aspects, but if things stay as they are, your first day on the PS4 version of the title could require a bit of preparation to get your macros and other features in place.
Speaking of your first day on the PS4 version of Final Fantasy XIV, you'll have to wait a bit before you gain access to your character. The PS4 beta will go live when the console launches in Japan on February 22, 2014. Square expects the beta to last about a month, but it will be confined to a special beta server, away from the general populous.
At first, you won't be able to access your existing character. You'll have to create a new character and start from scratch during the initial beta period. After a week or two you'll be able to play your existing character, but you'll still be confined to the beta server. When the beta period comes to an end, you'll finally be able to use your character and access the real world like you can on the PlayStation 3 and PC versions of the game. Our recommendation is to use the beta period to configure your macros and hot bars, then continue playing on the PS3 or PC version until the PS4 game is out of beta.
While the game is still in development, everything we've heard from Square is that the PlayStation 4 version of the title will look and play almost identical to a high end PC playing the game. Load times will be much faster compared to the PS3 port, a problem that has actually prevented PC players from grouping with PS3 players in specific dungeons. In addition, the keyboard and mouse support on the PS4 will be identical to the PC version. Right now, while you can use a keyboard and mouse on the PS3 port, you're limited in what you can do. That will change when the PS4 version hits, or you can continue to use a controller. There's also discussion of using the touch pad on the PS4 controller like a mouse.
Alongside the PS4 version of the title, players will be able to pick up a PlayStation Vita for remote play. You'll be able to do side activities such as gathering or crafting while on the PS Vita, then switch to the PS4 for more demanding activities such as dungeon raids and parties. There will also be a companion application available for the Vita that will likely mimic the app available on iOS right now. It will give you access to information about every item and skill in the game.
When all is said and done, the PS4 version will be the definitive version of the game. All signs point to the PS4 version actually out-classing a high-end PC running the title. However, we'll have to wait until it's actually released to do a proper comparison. Either way, if you're a console player, you'll see a huge improvement when playing the game on the PlayStation 4. Everything from more characters on-screen at once, to shorter load times, high resolutions and significantly improved visuals. We'll have more on the ever-evolving title in the coming months!