Sega’s 32-bit, fifth-generation game console, the Sega Saturn, may have been a commercial failure but there’s one thing the company absolutely nailed – its DRM. But that’s not really where this story begins.
The Sega Saturn made its North American debut in May 1995 and although it was only on the market for a handful of years, more than nine million consoles were sold worldwide. Now, over 20 years later, owners are finding that the optical disc drives are starting to wear out. The console itself still works but without the disc drive, it’s more or less useless.
That’s where James Laird-Wah, better known as Dr. Abrasive, comes in.
Laird-Wah was determined to try and figure out a way to bypass the optical drive and have the console run games by reading them from a USB drive. As you’ll see in the interview above, however, this was no easy task as Sega over-engineered the copyright protection system.
It took about three years but Laird-Wah finally able to crack the DRM. In addition to reading from the USB drive, he also figured out how to write data to the drive which allows him to store game save files and chiptune tracks.
Dr. Abrasive hasn’t yet released his DRM-cracking tool as there’s still a bit of work that needs to be done. But even still, this is great news for retro gaming fans – especially those who own a Saturn with a dead optical drive.