I adore my Nintendo Switch. In the space of two years, the handheld/portable hybrid has become one of my all-time favourite consoles, thanks to its blend of great first-party games, stellar library of indies, and ports of some of the last generation’s best titles.
With that said, it’s becoming harder and harder to ignore a glaring problem with the Switch’s Joy-Con controllers, which is commonly referred to as the “Joy-Con drift.” It recently hit me personally, and it’s a complete and utter pain in the tush.
If you’ve yet to experience the joys of this drift issue, it’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like. For whatever reason (presumably a build up of dirt or other wear and tear), my left control stick will suddenly take on a life of its own. I’ve been playing Breath of the Wild, for example, and Link suddenly starts running around in circles of his own volition.
Menus become almost impossible to navigate as the stick flicks through options before you can even think, and games become – if not unplayable – actively irritating experiences.
I’ve tried re-calibrating my control sticks (to no avail), and have even blasted a bit of WD40 under the rubber caps on top of the sticks on the advise of several kind folk on the internet. While that works as a temporary fix, my Joy-Con is usually back to its annoying business within a week or two. It doesn’t help that a new pair of Joy-Cons can set you back around £60, either.
The whole thing is especially disappointing given my previous experience with Nintendo controllers. I’ve had a GameCube pad that I’ve been using for every Super Smash Bros game since Melee, and it still works perfectly. To have the controllers on my most-played console give up the ghost after two years is pretty gutting.
@NintendoAmerica I’ve owned the switch for 4 months and am experiencing joycon drift already this is highly unacceptable and unprofessional. Your “Support” told me to pay $4 shipping to have you guys fix your faulty controller. No thanks. pic.twitter.com/PAnGO9BIcd
— Daniel Jacques (@NemisisPlays) July 14, 2019
I thought I was one of the few unlucky ones with a defective bit of kit, but a report from Kotaku reveals that the number of people coming forward with Joy Con drift complaints is massively growing in number.
Two days ago, a thread on the Nintendo Switch subreddit documenting one Switch owner’s experience with the issue was upvoted over twenty-five thousand times. While I thought it was bad that mine started to give up after a couple of years, this chap’s started drifting after just four months.
And before someone says ‘Contact Nintendo and have them repair it. I shouldn’t have to spend $4 and two weeks without my Joy-Cons for them to just come back and break again in 4 months. And before someone says ‘Then buy a do it yourself repair kit for $1,’ again there is absolutely zero reason for me to do that on a luxury controller. And yes I consider $80 a luxury controller because my PS4’s DualShock 4 doesn’t drift for years for me and my Pro controller which has had all of my extensive ‘rough’ playtime on it is also perfectly fine.
A quick Google will confirm that people have been experiencing this issue for almost as long as the Switch has been out, and Nintendo have never released any kind of statement on the matter. Clearly, this silence is becoming more and more frustrating to users as they learn that they’re far from the only ones dealing with Joy-Con drift.
Whether Nintendo ever intends to break its silence on the matter remains to be seen, but given the price of Joy-Cons and how integral they are to the Switch experience, I’d hope a more permanent fix is found soon.
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Ewan Moore is a journalist at UNILAD Gaming who still quite hasn’t gotten out of his mid 00’s emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), he went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis, before landing a full time gig at UNILAD in 2016.