Sega Saturn's Copy Protection Solved After 20 Years: Retro Gamers, Rejoice!


Sega Saturn owners can do nothing but hope that the disc drive of the gaming console, which was launched more than 20 years ago, can further stand the test of time. This is because once the disc drive is busted, the Sega Saturn will become useless as it is not allowed to run software from any other format.

The Sega Saturn comes with a hardware-based digital rights management, or DRM, technology that requires game discs to have a physical mark, known as a wobble, that were etched into the CDs. While gamers have found a way to get the Sega Saturn to run unofficial codes written on CDs using hard-to-find mod chips, there has been no progress in getting the retro gaming console to run games from other sources such as a USB drive.

That is, until now.

James Laird-Wah, more known by his online name of Dr. Abrasive, has finally cracked the DRM of the Sega Saturn after more than 20 years since its launch, which will allow games to be loaded to the console through a USB.

Laird-Wah began to study the Sega Saturn back in 2013, as he was attracted to the gaming console's ambitious multi-channel sound chip. He wanted to create software for the Sega Saturn to take advantage of that chip, but Laird-Wah found that it was difficult to run homebrew software on the gaming console due to the need for mod chips and burning CDs.

Laird-Wah then went through a reverse engineering process that took years, but now the end product is finally here.

The project required Laird-Wah to trick the relevant Sega Saturn chip into spilling its read-only memory, and then reverse engineer the gaming console's operating system. He then inserted a customized board into the Video CD card slot of the Sega Saturn, which he used to feed the gaming console with the code stored in a USB drive.

With Laird-Wah's achievement, retro gamers will no longer have to worry about the CD drive of the Sega Saturn breaking down, as games will still be able to be played on the console through a USB drive. It is easy to pop the game discs into a PC and extract the code of the games as there is no encryption on the CDs, and then transfer them to a USB drive. In addition, developers of emulators and homebrew games will be able to tap into the capabilities of the Sega Saturn more than they have ever done before.

Laird-Wah is still polishing the device for the Sega Saturn, but gamers should expect it to be released publicly so that their classic games will be able to continue their digital lives for as long as possible.

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