Joy-Con drift caused by design flaw, study finds

According to a new study, you're not doing anything wrong - Joy-Con drift is caused by an inherent design flaw in the Nintendo Switch.


Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, experts are expecting Nintendo to skip and release a successor to the Switch instead of a Switch Pro.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, experts are expecting Nintendo to skip and release a successor to the Switch instead of a Switch Pro.

While the Nintendo Switch has been by all accounts a smashing success, with the hybrid console arguably defining a generation in gaming, the ride has not been without its bumps. The one skeleton in the closet that keep tipping out is the hot button issue dubbed Joy-Con drift. A new study by a UK consumer group has chalked the problem up to a design flaw.

The debates and controversies around the dreaded phenomenon, wherein the analogue sticks on the Joy-Con controllers of the Switch console register movement even when not touched, have marked the otherwise universally praised lifetime of the platform. Theories about its cause have floated about, with some gamers blaming Nintendo while others insisted people experiencing it simply misused their hardware.

Now, it seems we've finally got our answer over 5 years after the Switch first hit the market, courtesy of a UK consumer group. Which? (not a question, but the name of the group, punctuation included) sought an answer for the worryingly common issue in the hardware, taking a look at the circuit board.

Joy-con Drift Caused By Design Flaw, Study Finds
Are your Joy-Cons drifting? Good news - it isn't your fault.

The group's research has seemingly proven, with evidence, that Joy-Con drift is the result of design and engineering flaws in the Switch hardware causing regular use to wear the analogue stick mechanism down enough to cause the problem. Additionally, Which? has found dust and additional contaminants inside the Joy-Con housing during the study compounding the issue.

On top of the actual technical and mechanical faults at play, the consumer group took aim at Nintendo's handling of the whole situation - or lack thereof. Which? is demanding the company provide compensation for consumers who have purchased replacement Joy-Cons due to drift, and to provide free repairs for instances of Joy-Con drift.

Nintendo responded to the study and the consumer group's statements. As one can expect with corporate responses, it's a bit wishy washy and deflective, but does acknowledge the support Nintendo is ready to extend to users who experienced Joy-Con drift.

The unannounced Nintendo Direct has been delayed according to insiders.
The newer OLED version of the console still experiences Joy-Con drift.

[...] 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.

Users have reported in the past that contacting Nintendo support about Joy-Con drift has often resulted in free repairs being issued, and the customers didn't need to cover shipping either. While Nintendo is downplaying the drift problem for PR purposes, it is clear that they do take it seriously.

This technically is a win for Which? and consumers in general, but it is worth mentioning that Nintendo has been offering free Joy-Con repairs in the case of drift even before the study and evidence was published. This isn't the company's first rodeo regarding drift, having weathered class action lawsuits and even the European Commission explored the possibility of an investigation.

Alongside proving that Joy-Con drift is a hardware issue, the Which? study also estimates that two in five Joy-Con controllers will be affected by the problem, which is fairly staggering. Considering the sheer quantity of Switch consoles out there, that is a lot of drifting. 

Hopefully Nintendo's efforts to eliminate the problem in future revisions of the hardware will prove fruitful, as drift has caused plenty of headaches for both gamers and the company itself. That said, even a problem of this magnitude has failed to slam the brakes on the Switch's success, marked by the fancier new OLED version. 


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Ray Ampoloquio

Ray Ampoloquio // Articles: 5868

Ray is a lifelong gamer with a nose for keeping up with the latest news in and out of the gaming industry. When he's not reading, writing, editing, and playing video games, he builds and repairs computers in his spare time. You can find Ray on Twitter and LinkedIn.
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