The game we know as Wing Commander: Privateer began life as Trade Commander, a game planned in 1992 to take advantage of the RealSpace technology being developed for Chris Roberts' opus, Strike Commander. The plan was to offset the tremendous cost of Strike Commander by quickly releasing other games built on the same engine--something that could be accomplished by beginning their development before Strike was ready. As Strike Commander ran into delays and overruns, it became clear the new 3D engine would not be available in time. Plans for Trade Commander were adapted to use the existing, less technically impressive Wing Commander engine. Trade Commander's sister project, Phoenix Force, was less lucky: it was unceremoniously cancelled and is rarely remembered today.
Trade Commander was formally announced, in typical Origin fashion, in 1992:
In 1990 ORIGIN revolutionized the industry when it introduced interactive cinema with the first Wing Commander game. In 1991 Wing Commander II carried this vision to new heights of game action, and with it new depth and sophistication. Now this year (we hope) will see the release of Trade Commander (now Privateer), a game that brings interactive entertainment software to a higher pinnacle of excitement than ever before.(Read the full announcement.)