2019 had a list of highs and lows, as with any year. But, this year was particularly wild for Nintendo due to the controversy surrounding the now infamous “Joy-Con drift” situation. Joy-Con drift is an issue that occurs when an analog stick on a Joy-Con registers an input without the player actually touching it. It can also happen when the stick is touched and continues to virtually move in the inputted direction despite the stick being returned to a neutral position. Either way, it’s an annoying occurence and severely negatively impacts the gameplay experience.
The problem quickly grew as the weeks went on as more and more Joy-Con controllers (particularly ones from the earliest days of the Switch) began developing the issue. It’s for this reason why a French publication, named ’60 Millions de Consommateurs’ (60 Million Consumers), has deemed Nintendo to be one of the “worst companies of 2019”. Additionally, the magazine has labelled the Switch to be the “most fragile product” of the year.
While these may seem like extreme reactions, consider that a lawsuit was launched in the US against Nintendo over the Joy-Con drift issue. After this lawsuit became public, Nintendo of America soon started offering free repairs for malfunctioning Joy-Con even if they were out of their warranty period. However, it appears this repair offer was only made out to North American customers, leaving Switch owners elsewhere in the world usually having to fork over some cash.
It turns out that the problem with the Joy-Con may very well be at a factory level, as earlier this year an engineer uncovered the apparent cause of the drifting issue. It turns out that as a Joy-Con’s analog stick is moved around, tiny fragments of debris build-up and eventually began interfering with the sensors. This is what causes the incorrect inputs to be registered. Apparently, Nintendo could’ve fixed it by using better materials.
On an official level, Nintendo has yet to state if the problem has been corrected. Talk from the community surrounding the issue has died down, so either people simply got tired of discussing it, or maybe newer models have actually been fixed. As was with the original first batch of troubled units, only time will tell if newer Joy-Con began developing the same problem.
Personally, my left Joy-Con has had the drift problem since late 2018. I first tried fixing it with some electronic contact cleaner, but the issue kept coming back after a few weeks. Recently, I finally got around to self-installing an entirely new control stick I bought from Amazon. Now, the problem is gone entirely.
Perhaps this replacement stick will eventually wear out as well, but at least now I know how to fix it. The process isn’t actually that hard, nor is it time-consuming (I did it in about a half-hour). Still, the average consumer typically doesn’t have the know-how or, in most cases, the patience to perform a similar operation. Usually, people don’t want to have to fix their devices, especially if they’re relatively new and well-maintained. So, it’s understandable why so much uproar was initially generated over this drifting problem.