The Nintendo Switch is the hottest console on the planet right now but there’s one massive issue which has come to light which is threatening to undermine all of Nintendo’s good work – and it relates to the machine’s innovative Joy-Con controllers.
What Is Joy-Con Drift?
Users are reporting that their analogue sticks are ‘drifting’ over time – that basically means that the stick is reporting movement to the console even when it’s not being touched.
The drift seems to be more common on the left-hand analogue stick – as this is the one used or movement in-game and therefore sees a lot more use – but we’ve also seen reports that the stick on the right-hand Joy-Con is also susceptible to drift.
How Many People Are Affected By Joy-Con Drift?
It’s naturally impossible to say how many people will have been impacted by this issue accurately, but a poll conducted by Nintendo Life showed that almost 50 percent of the respondents had a Joy-Con that was exhibiting the problem. That’s a massive issue whichever way you look at it, and shows just how widespread the fault is. If 1 in every 2 Switch owners has been hit by the drift problem, then we’re looking at a potentially catastrophic production headache for Nintendo – which is exactly what it doesn’t need at this point in the Switch’s lifespan.
Is It Possible To Fix Joy-Con Drift?
The short reply is yes, but the long one is rather more complex. No one seems to know exactly what causes Joy-Con drift yet, but many have claimed that it is down to dust and grim getting inside the mechanism of the analogue stick and causing ‘phantom’ readings.
However, others state that upon opening the Joy-Con to inspect the innards, they have discovered that the analogue mechanism shows signs of extreme wear, which would suggest this is a problem relating to the build quality of the controller – basically, the more you use it, the worse it gets.
Other people have stated that recalibrating the analogue sticks – a process which can be done via the Switch’s controllers menu – solves the issue. If your controller is suffering from drift, this is the first thing you should try before any other solution.
If that doesn’t fix it, then taking a can of compressed air and blowing it onto the base of the analogue stick might help, as it is believed this shifts any debris which has accumulated within the controller.
If even that doesn’t work, then the only real option is to replace the stick itself with a new one, which is a very fiddly operation that voids the warranty on the Joy-Con.
What Are Switch Owners Doing About Joy-Con Drift?
Well, Switch owners understandably aren’t happy about the whole situation. Drift has been a known issue for some time, but recently a group of Switch fans decided to take firm action. US Law firm Chimicles Schwartz Kriner & Donaldson-Smith filed a class-action lawsuit against Nintendo, claiming that the Joy-Con controllers are ‘defective’ thanks to the drift problems. The firm is calling for impacted Switch owners to add their voice to the suit.
What Has Nintendo Said About Joy-Con Drift?
Most of Nintendo’s actions so far are pretty common for the company – it offers a standard warranty of 90 days for accessories (which covers additional Joy-Con you might have purchased) and 12 months for consoles, which covers the Joy-Con you got with your console.
Nintendo also has a robust repair network which offers fast and reliable repairs – but the catch is you’ll have to pay. Is it being reported that Nintendo will charge as much as $50 for a single Joy-Con repair, and $80 for a pair – which is basically the cost of a new pair of Joy-Con.
Now, it’s worth noting that Nintendo has been in situations like this in the past and, as evidence of production problems have appeared, has altered its stance. Back in the days of the Nintendo DS, the DS Lite model suffered from cracked hinges – which Nintendo repaired free of charge. More recently, the company repaired Joy-Con controllers which exhibited poor wireless connectivity in docked mode due to bad internal shielding (again, this was free of charge). We suspect that once the dust has settled on this Joy-Con drift problem, Nintendo will begin a similar program of free repairs.
In the meantime, the company has issued the following statement to The Verge on the matter:
“At Nintendo, we take great pride in creating quality products and we are continuously making improvements to them. We are aware of recent reports that some Joy-Con controllers are not responding correctly. We want our consumers to have fun with Nintendo Switch, and if anything falls short of this goal we always encourage them to visit http://support.nintendo.com so we can help.””
So, Where Does This Leave The Switch Lite?
This is the million-dollar question. The Switch Lite – due for release in September of this year – doesn’t have removable Joy-Con controllers, so if it is also impacted by analogue stick drift, the entire console becomes unusable. We’ve not seen anything to suggest that the design of the stick itself is in any way different from the current Joy-Con model, which means we wouldn’t recommend buying a Switch Lite until we know for sure that Nintendo has solved the problem. Given that Switch Lite consoles will already be boxed up and waiting for shipping, it’s highly likely that they too will have ‘defective’ sticks. In short, keep your powder dry this September and wait until we know for sure that the issue has been fixed.
Damien McFerran has been covering phones and mobile technology for well over a decade. An Android specialist, as well as an expert reviewer of phones, Damien is one of the best technology journalists working today. He is also editorial director over at the excellent Nintendo Life.