Sega Saturn’s DRM cracked after 22 years

The Sega Saturn was first released in Japan in November 1994. Now, in July 2016, the console’s piracy protection has finally been cracked.

Boo and hiss, you may shout, but this may well be one of those rare instances where breaking through a DRM barrier is a good thing.

You see, with the console bowing out of production in 1998 after what is largely deemed to have been a short and unsuccessful life, those Saturns that still live in the wild are slowly but surely dying out, mainly from disc drive failure. And as their numbers diminish, so too does the chance to relish some of the machine’s unique releases.

Kotaku reports that engineer James ‘Dr Abrasive’ Laird-Wah has successfully cracked the console and got games loading off USB, meaning even consoles whose drives have long since packed up can continue to enjoy the pleasures of Panzer Dragoon Saga, Burning Rangers, Shining the Holy Ark, Sega Rally, Fighters Megamix, Sonic R, Virtua Cop, Nights Into Dreams, Street Fighter Alpha 2 and Radiant Silvergun.

Yes, we were big Saturn fans. And Sega has by and large yet to tap into that particular reserve of retro IP.

Laird-Wah began the process of figuring out Saturn’s DRM in 2013, long after the chips that gamers of old used to play unsigned software. Unlike many machines, the Saturn uses hardware based DRM that searched for a physical feature on the actual discs.

There’s no word yet on when the solution will be made publicly available. But don’t go chucking those Saturns out yet.

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