Nintendo controllers drift due to mechanical fault, research finds


Joy-Con, the primary gaming controllers for the Nintendo Switch video game console, were released in 2017 and have since been criticised for the analog sticks’ tendency to capture inputs even when not touched (also known as drift).

The issue escalated to the point that Nintendo started in 2019 to repair and replace controllers for free, even though they were out of warranty. In 2020, Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa, issued a public apology stating: “We apologize for any inconvenience caused to our customers regarding Joy-Con controllers. We are continuing to improve our products.”

A UK product testing organization, Which? has now found evidence that the chronic Nintendo Switch controller problems are likely caused by mechanical faults and design flaws. “Nintendo Switch ‘drift’ has been plaguing gamers for years now and we’ve found evidence that mechanical issues are likely to blame,” said Rocio Concha from Which?. A previous survey found that two in five Nintendo Switch Classic owners experienced drift.

Which? sent five faulty Nintendo controller sets to the lab for testing, and got confirmation that here was a drift issue in all five. Besides, the research uncovered noticeable wear on the joystick slider contact points and dust and other contaminants buildup inside the controller. “Whilst there are variances between the construction of the individual controllers, the common features noted are the wear on the joystick slider contact points, present on all of the plastic circuit boards, and the ingress of dust and contamination,” reads the lab report.

Following the findings, Which? has called on Nintendo to offer a compensation or refund scheme for all UK consumers who can prove they have bought a replacement Joy-Con due to the drift, and outlined that the scheme should be widely promoted. “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, Nintendo issued a statement saying: “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.”