“Joy-Con drift” has been one of the most controversial topics in the Nintendo space for quite some time now. Not too long after the Switch’s initial launch in 2017 has this been a problem highlighted by a huge swath of the company’s community. In didn’t just end up being a series of online rants either. Nintendo has actually been taken to court in multiple countries over this, with the cited reasons being that the company has knowingly been releasing a faulty product to its consumers.
The official response to this problem has been odd, to say the least. From statements dismissing its legitimacy, to apologies from its CEO, Nintendo has kind of been beating around the bush for the most part when it comes to actually addressing Joy-Con drift. But, finally, the company is taking the matter seriously and offering a sizeable increase in transparency about it.
Following the launch of the new Nintendo Switch OLED model, Nintendo has gone ahead and published a new issue of its Ask the Developer online blog series. In this issue, two Nintendo executives were interviewed: Ko Shiota and Toru Yamashita. The question was squarely asked if improvements have been made to the newest iteration of the Joy-Con, to which both men responded confirmed that there has been. Albeit, there is a catch.
Patching the hardware
Before getting to that, however, the confirmation comes in the form of Mr. Yamashita stating that the analog sticks of the controller “have been continuously improved since launch, and we are still working on improvements.” He stated that Nintendo has been investigating the effects of wear-and-tear on the sticks, and thus the company has “undergone a lot of considerations to improve them.” He further added: “In addition, we improved the reliability test itself, and have continued to make changes to improve durability and clear this new test.” These improvements are in the sticks used in individual Joy-Con, the sticks of Nintendo Switch Lite units, and even the sticks of the Pro Controller.
That said, the catch is that, despite all of these improvements, Nintendo does not guarantee that users will never encounter the drifting issue. Mr. Shiota added to the conversation by comparing the Joy-Con’s sticks to that of a car tire. He mentions how, just as a car tire wears over time due to use, so does the analog sticks of the Joy-Con become gradually worn out through friction. Yamashita further explained that Nintendo is “researching which combinations [of materials] are less likely to wear.”
Improvements being made all around
All Joy-Con controllers being shipped with Switch OLED models are benefitting from these improvements, but Mr. Yamashita states that also new individual Joy-Con, Nintendo Switch Lite units and Pro Controllers all have the same improvements. He further stated that this process is ongoing, saying that, aside from looking at the next-gen hardware of the future, Nintendo’s teams also look at the existing hardware and see how it can be improved over time.
This process has been happening throughout the Switch’s lifecycle, such as evidenced by the battery improvements made to Switch units from 2019 and onward; these improvements are also in the Switch OLED. Of course, the OLED itself includes the most amount of improvements to the overall hardware design both inside and out. Mr. Shiota further stated that Nintendo does take into account the opinions of consumers when it comes to researching and deploying improvements and new ideas.
For now, there doesn’t seem to be a key way to identify that a Joy-Con is a “new and improved” model, outside of the white colored ones which have just launched for the first time alongside the Switch OLED. Of course, there are new neon colored ones being shipped with the Switch OLED as well. Considering the amount of Joy-Cons being bought, it does at least seem unlikely to encounter units with the older, less durable stick design when buying them brand-new.
Personally, I’ve only had to replace the stick in the left Joy-Con that came with the Switch that I bought back in late 2017. I performed that replacement in the summer of 2019, and the stick hasn’t given me problems since. There are other folks who have encountered it in just one Joy-Con, and some none at all. Then you have the unfortunate accounts of people who bought multiple Joy-Con and had to deal with drift in every single one. Hopefully, moving forward there will be a considerable overall drop in reports across the Switch community. But, in terms of specific, keep an eye on reports from Switch OLED users over the next few months to see just how well the new Joy-Con hold up.