Is this what's causing Joy-Con 'drift'? Experts pinpoint fault

Is THIS what’s causing Joy-Con ‘drift’? Experts pinpoint a fault in Nintendo Switch consoles that causes them to register movement even when players are not touching the controllers

  • Experts at Which? may have got to the bottom of the so-called Joy-Con ‘drift’ 
  • The report said the drift problem is most likely caused by a mechanical fault   
  • Drift happens when controllers register movement without users touching it
  • The fault has led many consumers to replace their switch for around £70

Since the Nintendo Switch launched back in 2017, it has been marred by reports of ‘Joy-Con drift’, where the detachable controllers register movements without the users touching them.

The bug can make video games unplayable and has left many consumers out of pocket having to buy expensive replacement controllers, which can cost around £70.

Now, an experiment by Which? has tested faulty controllers, revealing a crucial design flaw that is to blame. 

Based on the findings, Which? is calling on Nintendo to act urgently to fix the issues.

Since the Nintendo Switch launched back in 2017, it has been marred by reports of ‘Joy-Con drift’, where the detachable controllers register movements without the users touching them 

Gamers who use the Nintendo Switch have complained of a defect in their controllers dubbed ‘Joy-Con Drift.’

‘Drift’ is an infuriating flaw which causes video game characters to move about on screen or cameras to zoom out awkwardly without the player even touching the control stick. 

It first surfaced as a problem soon after the console was launched in 2017. 

In many cases the fault has rendered the controllers unusable by interfering with gameplay.

Joy-Con drift has been a widespread problem ever since the console launched. 

A previous survey by Which? found that two in five Nintendo Switch Classic owners experienced drift.

Of those who reported drift, around six in 10 (57 per cent) said the problems occurred in the first year of them owning the games console.

Many of those affected by the ongoing issues have taken to social media to find solutions or express their frustration. 

On TikTok, videos helping users fix and dismantle their Joy-Con drift have received millions of views.

One wrote on Twitter: ‘This joy-con drift is just getting completely out of hand.’

Another added: ‘I got a new controller for my Switch a few weeks ago and it has the dreaded joy con drift. I’m so sad.’ 

In the latest research, Which? sourced five sets of Joy-Con controllers from consumers, plus their Nintendo Switch Classic consoles.

Each console had reported instances of drift that had not been resolved by the owners, who bought the item between 2017 and 2019.

One set of the controllers was a replacement set purchased after the original Joy-Cons developed drift.

A lab report commissioned by Which? found that Joy-Con ‘drift’ is likely caused by a mechanical issue

HOW TO GET NINTENDO TO FIX JOY-CON DRIFT

  •  Check the stick configuration here
  •  Is your Switch still in warranty? Nintendo offers a 24-month warranty on all Switch consoles, so identify when you bought the console and see if it still qualifies.
  •  Contact Nintendo: If the above does not address the issue, contact Nintendo to request a repair. You can use this link to do so.
  •  Your legal rights: Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, any products you buy should remain fit for purpose, of satisfactory quality and as described for up to six years after purchase. If not, then you can make the case for a repair or replacement. Find out more on your legal rights here
  •  Tell Which? your story: The consumer watchdog wants to hear from anyone with a Switch that has developed drift. Contact Which? at [email protected]

The controllers were then shipped off to a specialist lab where the hardware was dismantled and assessed. 

The lab verified that there was a drift issue in all five Joy-Con sets, present on one or both controllers. 

In surveys earlier this year, consumers reported that the left-hand stick was most commonly affected and the lab report confirmed this was also the case. 

Anecdotally, users had previously blamed a build up of dirt finding its way into the controllers, causing it to become faulty, and it appears they might be right.

According to the lab report, although there were differences between each controller, the most common problem noted was wear on the joystick slider contact points, even if they had only been used for a few months.

There were also concerns raised about how much dust or other contaminants was getting trapped within the internal components. 

Protection provided by the dust proof cowls on the Joy-Cons appeared to be ineffective, causing more wear.

All the plastic circuit boards showed significant wear on the joystick slider contact points, despite only being used for months.

It was concluded that this wear, and the drift issue that resulted from it, were likely due to a mechanical issue.

It is not the first time that concerns have been raised about the problems of Joy-Con drift.

In January 2021, the BEUC raised the issues with the European Commission and national consumer protection organisations over ‘systematic problems’ with the functionality of the Nintendo Switch.

It said it had received complaints from people all over Europe over the so-called Joy-Con drift adding that according to consumer testimonies, in 88 per cent of cases the games controller had already broken within the first two years of use. 

Since coming on the market in 2017, Nintendo has sold more than 68 million consoles world-wide, according to the BEUC.

The faultiness in some of the controllers led to a stern response from BEUC Director General Monique Goyens, who said ‘it’s high time for companies to stop putting products onto the market that break too early’.

The most recent findings from Which? are also in line with a report that had been commissioned by a French consumer organisation UFC-Que Choisir.

A previous survey by the consumer champion found that two in five of Nintendo Switch Classic owners reported experiencing drift

Which? is now calling for Nintendo to tackle the problem head on and has called the company to provide compensation or a refund plan for any UK consumers who can prove they have paid out for replacement Joy-Cons as a result of the drift fault.

Rocio Concha, Which? Director of Policy and Advocacy said: ‘Nintendo Switch “drift” has been plaguing gamers for years now and we’ve found evidence that mechanical issues are likely to blame.

‘Nintendo must get a grip on the problem and provide free repairs, compensation, refunds or replacements for any consumers who have been impacted by this issue since the launch of the console.’

In response to the research, a spokesperson for Nintendo said: ‘The percentage of Joy-Con controllers that have been reported as experiencing issues with the analogue stick in the past is small, and we have been making continuous improvements to the Joy-Con analogue stick since its launch in 2017.

‘We expect all our hardware to perform as designed, and, if anything falls short of this goal, we always encourage consumers to contact Nintendo customer support, who will be happy to openly and leniently resolve any consumer issues related to the Joy-Con controllers’ analogue sticks, including in cases where the warranty may no longer apply.’

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WHEN WAS THE NINTENDO SWITCH RELEASED?

The Switch hit shelves across the world on Friday, March 3, 2017, selling for £279.99 (around $340).

It was released alongside its first two games, including an update on an early classic –  The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – and a multiplayer party game called 1-2-Switch.

More games – including Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, another release based on a fan favourite – have been released since. 

The tablet-like console clicks into the Nintendo Switch Dock, connecting it to the TV.

The Switch hit shelves across the world on Friday, March 3, and is selling for £279.99 (around $340)

In this version, the controller can be used much like a classic system, with grips and buttons on both sides. 

But, these components can be detached to create two independent Joy-Con controllers as well.

For single player use, one person can play with a controller in each hand.

Or, two people can play using one Joy-Con controller each.

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