Wing Commander Arena End of Life FAQ (June 24, 2024)

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
There has been a fair amount of chat about the deadline to buy Wing Commander Arena with many fans confused about what the game is and how to play it. Many have also encountered a bug in which their Xbox does not allow them to buy the game. We hope to help by answering these questions and others with this quick FAQ.

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What is Wing Commander Arena?

Wing Commander Arena is a spinoff game set in the Wing Commander universe. It was developed for the Xbox 360 and released on Xbox Live Arcade on July 25, 2007. It was produced by Electronic Arts and developed by the now-defunct Gaia Industries studio. Xbox Live Arcade titles were small and often experimental budget games; they were released digitally for a low price point. Players should be aware that Arena is not a traditional Wing Commander game with a first person cockpit view and an interactive story. It is a top-down shooter with a heavy focus on frenzied multiplayer battles. It's a wonderful game but it is a very different concept from much of the rest of the series. It is still heavily steeped in familiar Wing Commander lore!



Why should I buy Wing Commander Arena now?

Microsoft is closing their Xbox 360 Marketplace on July 29, 2024. This will be the last day digital content can be purchased for the Xbox 360. As a result, Wing Commander Arena will not be legally purchasable after July 29, 2024. If you ever want to play the game, you must have a copy on your Xbox Live account by this date.



Does this mean I won't be able to play Wing Commander Arena after July 29, 2024?

You will be able to play Wing Commander Arena after July 29, 2024. The game will continue to function for anyone who already owns a copy but there will be no way for additional players to add the game to their library.



Why does Microsoft continue to support Wing Commander Arena when many high profile Electronic Arts titles for the Xbox 360 have shuttered their multiplayer?

Unlike many full scale Xbox 360 games, Xbox Live Arcade titles did not use bespoke servers; instead they share a universal architecture between them. It is expected that Wing Commander Arena's multiplayer will continue to function for owners of the game until Microsoft shutters the entire Xbox Live Arcade system.



What do I need to play Wing Commander Arena?

To play Wing Commander Arena you must have an Xbox Live account and own an Xbox 360 game console. To access the multiplayer features you must have a current paid Xbox Game Pass Core or Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription (formerly known as Xbox Live Gold).



Can I play Wing Commander Arena on an Xbox, Xbox One, Xbox Series S or Xbox Series X?

No, Wing Commander Arena is only playable on an Xbox 360. It is not compatible with any other game console.



How do you buy Wing Commander Arena?

The only guaranteed way to buy Wing Commander Arena at this point is using the Xbox 360 Marketplace on an actual Xbox 360 console using an Xbox Live account. Some players have been able to purchase the game through the listing at the Xbox website but it seems to be largely non-functional at this point.



I'm getting an error when I try to purchase the game on my console!

There have been many instances reported of Xbox 360s no longer being able to process stored credit cards; so even if you have an account in good standing with a payment method on file the Xbox 360 Marketplace will not allow you to purchase the game. To solve this problem you should purchase a digital Xbox Gift Card through Microsoft's website (they can be had in denominations of down to one dollar). Use the website to add the gift card amount to your Xbox Live account. Then restart your Xbox 360 and use it to buy the game with the credit you have available.



What can I play in the full game if I don't have Xbox Live Gold?

If you do not have access to the Xbox Live's multiplayer features, four game modes are available:

  • Melee is dogfighting with AI opponents in the Space Station map.
  • Meteor Storm is a modern take on 'Asteroids' in which you must defend space stations from enemy fighters and deadly meteors.
  • Gauntlet is a mission to defend a Midway-class carrier from attacking fighters which become progressively stronger each time you fend off a wave.
  • Proving Grounds is a training mode which pits you against AI opponents in a unique map filled with powerups and other features to experiment with.



Is any Wing Commander Arena material available for purchase in the Xbox 360 Marketplace?

There sure is! Electronic Arts released three exclusive video clips about the game. These videos are free and can be added to your Xbox Live account using the same process listed above.


They also produced two Xbox 360 themes, one showing Terran ships and the other Kilrathi. The themes have been discounted to $0.63. Note that these themes were designed for the original 'Blades' Xbox 360 interface and they are somewhat diminished when used with updated system software.


As with the game, you must add any of these extras you want to keep to your Xbox Live account before July 29, 2024.



What achievements can you earn in Wing Commander Arena?

Achievements are permanent badges added to your account when you accomplish a goal in an Xbox game; once you've earned an achievement it will display on your Xbox Live account forever alongside an accompanying score. Wing Commander Arena has twelve achievements; only the best pilots can earn all 200 points!





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Hot Dog (20)
Complete each Ring Game difficulty level


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Commando (10)
Earned ULF Commando Tattoo (15 frags in a Melee match)


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Dogfight (10)
Shot down first pilot in a Xbox LIVE match


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Ace (20)
Defeat 5 ships in a Ranked Xbox LIVE match without respawning


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Untouchable (20)
Reach wave 10 in Gauntlet without ever taking damage to your hull


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TCS Tiger's Claw (10)
Compete a 16 player Capital Ship game


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Hibernation (20)
Reach a streak of 5 in a Bearpit game


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Gunfighter (20)
Win a Ranked Duel with each ship type


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Navigator (10)
Travel through every gold jump gate in the game


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Retro (10)
Reach wave 20 in Meteor Storm


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Paladin (30)
Shoot down 1000 pilots on Xbox LIVE


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Deathstroke (20)
Finish in first place in any Ranked Free For All match






Most of these descriptions are self-explanatory but at least two could benefit from additional instructions:

Hot Dog - the 'Ring Game' is a series of hoops found in the outside layer of the Bearpit mid. You must use the game's special maneuver combos to move through them as quickly as possible; when you finish one set a new, more complex one will spawn. You must navigate through three sets of hoops inside the time limit. To play the Ring Game you must be at least the third player in an online Bearpit match, with the first two battling to the center of the map while you access the Ring Game in the dogfighting queue.

Navigator - The jump points for this mode can be found in Space Station (accessible via single player Melee or multiplayer Space Station matches), single player Proving Grounds and multiplayer Boneyard maps. You can effectively complete the achievement with no other players by starting a multiplayer Boneyard match and navigating through the jump points while it is waiting for additional players.



Which achievements require multiplayer?

Because there are not many multiplayer games available today, accomplishing many of the achievements requires active planning with other players. Three of the twelve achievements do not require access to multiplayer: only COMMANDO, RETRO and UNTOUCHABLE can be completed fully in single player modes.



Where can I find players for multiplayer games?

Right here in the Wing Commander community! You can post LFG messages to the Wing Commander Combat Information Center Chat Zone or feel free to join and ask in our Discord at any time. It can be tough to find players today but there are still dedicated pilots out there willing to take up the gauntlet! There are also various dedicated 'Xbox achievement' communities that work together to get achievements; they sometimes organize events for things like the TCS Tiger's Claw badge.



How do I unlock all of the flyable ship variants?

When you start Wing Commander Arena four ships are unlocked. Each ship has a specific unlock method similar to how achievements are awarded. These are generally much more simple to accomplish than the achievements but they are not documented in-game. A quick guide is available below.

BUG ALERT: two of the unlocks are tied directly to achievements which means that if you earn the achievement with the wrong side then the ship will not unlock. For example, earning the NAVIGATOR achievement as a Kilrathi player will block the Rapier Cavalier from unlocking. We caution new players to focus on earning NAVIGATOR in a Terran ship and HIBERNATION in a Kilrathi one otherwise it will be more difficult to unlock the Rapier Cavalier and the Paktahn Tusk (in that order). We STRONGLY RECOMMEND you focus on getting these two unlocks correctly because they can both happen accidentally through normal play. If you do miss out on these unlocks, scoring a number of kills in the single player Melee will sometimes cause them to unlock. This method can also unlock ships that are otherwise limited to multiplayer.

Arrow Scout: Unlocked at start
Arrow Eclipse: Score 10 kills in Melee
Arrow Guardian: Score 15 kills in Melee

Rapier Blade: Unlocked at start
Rapier Vanguard: Reach wave 5 of Meteor Storm
Rapier Cavalier: Earn the Navigator achievement (multiplayer access required)

Broadsword Executioner: Reach wave 5 of Gauntlet
Broadsword Warpig: Score 4 kills in ranked Duel (multiplayer required)
Broadsword Behemoth: Win a ranked Free-for-All (Boneyard or Space Station)

Darket Dragonfly: Unlocked at start
Darket Raptor: Score 10 kills in Melee
Darket Stalker: Score 15 kills in Melee

Dralthi Striker: Unlocked at start
Dralthi Shank: Reach wave 5 of Meteor Storm
Dralthi Rhino: Score 1 kill in ranked Free-for-All (Boneyard or Space Station) (multiplayer required)

Paktahn Phantom: Reach wave 5 in Gauntlet
Paktahn Tusk: Earn the Hibernation achievement (multiplayer required)
Paktahn Mauler: Destroy a capital ship in Capital Ship (multiplayer required)



How can I find the manual listed on the Xbox website?

You can download the game's in-fiction manual, Star Soldier, here. The booklet is patterned after the original Claw Marks and is overstuffed with classic Wing Commander lore!



Is any other Wing Commander Arena-related fiction available?

You can find a shortcut archive of our contemporary Wing Commander Arena reporting here. This includes archival marketing material produced by Electronic Arts for the game as well as screenshots, interviews, game footage, transcripts and more!



What will the future bring for Wing Commander Arena?

We anticipate that Microsoft will eventually shutter the entire Xbox 360 multiplayer ecosystem although no timeline for accomplishing this has been announced. At this time, the multiplayer features of the game will officially cease to function. Further down the line, we anticipate that Xbox 360 and Xbox Live Arcade emulation will eventually reach a point where the game can be played correctly again but this is even further in the future. The fact that XBLA multiplayer is game agnostic will hopefully make Arena support an inevitability rather than an unusual feature that must be added. So as with many things, we expect it will get worse before it gets better... but that it will be okay in the end!



Okay, level with us: it's seventeen years later. Did you actually love Wing Commander Arena or were you faking it because you loved Wing Commander and/or got to help out making the game?

We truly loved it. We're grateful to everyone who made the game possible, including and especially Electronic Arts producer Sean Penney who took the Wing Commander community's interests seriously throughout the entire project. We're sad to see the game go off sale but we're dedicated to preserving its history and making sure that future generations of fighter pilots will still get a chance to play this strange-but-delightful little piece of the Wing Commander canon.

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Original update published on June 24, 2024
 
This was the worst way to revive Wing Commander IMHO. It showed no confidence in the IP. No surprise it did not kickstart a revival. I am, like everyone here, a hardcore fan and never even considered playing this game. Mileage varies I suppose.
 
This was the worst way to revive Wing Commander IMHO. It showed no confidence in the IP. No surprise it did not kickstart a revival. I am, like everyone here, a hardcore fan and never even considered playing this game. Mileage varies I suppose.
Well, that's certainly true. I don't think there was a universe in which Arena could have been successful. However, at the same time, it has to be said: EA's lack of confidence meant that this was the only viable option at all for a new Wing Commander product. For this reason, I for one am very glad they made Arena - even if I've never had a chance to play it myself. The opportunity would have been there, had I wanted to, but I never really had any urge to do so.

It sure would be fun to take the basic setting from Arena and transpose it into a proper first-person space sim game, though.
 
This was the worst way to revive Wing Commander IMHO. It showed no confidence in the IP. No surprise it did not kickstart a revival. I am, like everyone here, a hardcore fan and never even considered playing this game. Mileage varies I suppose.

Well, thanks for coming to the FAQ to let us know what you think about a game you've never played!
 
Thanks for the FAQ. It was helpful to know what's going on about an otherwise forgotten part of Wing Commander lore. Too bad EA never enabled backwards compatibility so it could be played on the newer consoles.
 
I don't mind if I never play Arena again but if we didn't have Arena we wouldn't have Star Soldier - which I enjoy reading after a playthrough (ending on Secret Ops is never fun, SS makes a great bookend, still have the physical version) so I'm glad we got Arena and I don't feel like we're in danger of losing the best bit of it.
 
I still hold out hope of being able to try out Arena some day. It's the only title in the series that I have never played. And I enjoyed playing Freelancer; I imagine the third person point-of-view wouldn't bother me much.

Is emulation a viable option in the slightest?
 
I still hold out hope of being able to try out Arena some day. It's the only title in the series that I have never played. And I enjoyed playing Freelancer; I imagine the third person point-of-view wouldn't bother me much.

Is emulation a viable option in the slightest?

I believe Arena will load in an emulator today but we aren't at a point where you can actually play online with people. It's coming, though!
 
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