Sega Pluto

From Sega Retro

Pluto 02 1.jpg
Sega Pluto
Manufacturer: Sega

The Sega Pluto is an unreleased video game console developed by Sega during the 1990s. The console's existence was kept away from the general public until April 2013, when a former Sega employee leaked details of the system onto the internet.

The Sega Pluto would have been a cost-reduced Sega Saturn with built-in NetLink Internet Modem and hard drive, making it one of the first consoles to have internet support straight out of the box. It is unknown exactly how far the project was carried through before it was cancelled. At least two prototypes were ever produced (Pluto 01 and Pluto 02, respectively) both presumably in 1996. "Pluto" was likely just a code name and was unlikely to be used in marketing.

Both Pluto prototypes have been found, though they lie in the hands of collectors:

  • Pluto 02 surfaced on 17 April 2013 held for 14 years at this point by a former Sega of America employee now living in Japan.
  • A 2nd prototype surfaced right after this when another collector discovered that his big Saturn was actually a rare prototype after Pluto 02 appeared on news. He found it at a flea market in Stockton, California, and got it for $3 after he haggled down the price from $5. He proceeded to sell it at a GameGavel auction that ended at $7,600 and then at an eBay auction at $15,500. Both sales didn't go through though.

Technical Description

Both share the same shell but have minor aesthetic differences - Pluto 02 has the text "Sega Saturn" printed on the unit, and "Pluto 02" printed on the underside, while Pluto 01 lacks both of these things. Each have a North American BIOS which may suggest it was only ever intended for that market (most likely due to the NetLink technology being scarcely seen outside of this region). Pluto 01 also had a faulty disc drive door which did not fully close because of some missing parts that didn't make it in this first prototype version. It has been modded to be fully operational in February 2020.

According to a subsequent auction of Pluto 01, the system is 9 inches x 3½ inches x 14 inches in size, with an estimated weight of 5lbs. These are similar dimensions to a Sega Mega Drive 2 connected to a Sega Mega-CD 2. It has been fully disassembled on 26 February 2020 according to a video posted on YouTube on 22 March 2020, showing that this prototype is composed of:

  • Stock Saturn components regarding the internal AC-DC adapter,
  • A custom motherboard specific to the Pluto, marked with the serial number 171-7211B and dated as "© Sega 1996",
  • A modem powered by a Rockwell RC288DPi chipset, typical of 28.8 kbs modems produced in 1995,
  • A 2.5" hard drive disk of 540.3 MB capacity, a typical Seagate ST9546A.

Both modem and hard drive are linked to the mainboard through an expansion card and aren't accessible from the console's BIOS screen. An operating cartridge or CD is presumably necessary to use them.

Nothing actually clearly marks Pluto 01 as being the 1st unit produced besides a label next to the internal optical drive that says in Japanese 第1設計部 管理No. S0038 (Dai Is Seikkenbu - Kanri No. S0038), literally "1st Design - Control No. S0038". The mainboard has a blue printed label saying なんじゃこりゃ N3 (Nanjya Korya N3), literally "What's This N3".