Joy-Con drift has been an problem with the Nintendo Switch since its release in March 2017, and persisted with the Switch Lite after its September 2019 release, but which console is having the worst issues? This article will explore what is known about Joy-Con drift, solutions, and how this should affect a consumer’s decision to purchase (or not purchase) a Switch or Switch Lite.
Joy-Con drift happens when an input is registered without the user physically touching the analog stick — an understandable frustration. This could be due to small debris like dirt getting stuck under the stick. Dissections indicate that when moving the analog stick around, the metal prongs inside rub along the softer contact pads. This friction can produce microscopic debris that initiates the drift. It’s important to note that controller connection issues could also be the culprit, and that a vast amount of users never experience Joy-Con drift in either system.
Yet the amount of people plagued by Joy-Con drift was a big enough problem that a class action lawsuit was made in July 2019 against Nintendo for its negligence in properly addressing the issue. Mere days after the Lite’s release, it also joined the lawsuit. While this may seem like the Lite has more drift issues than the standard Switch, that is not necessarily the case. Rather, drift had already been on the radar for sometime prior to the Lite’s release, so when some consumers confirmed the defect in the compact version, it made sense to include it in the lawsuit. So is one console worse than the other when it comes to the drift dilemma?
It’s hard to say, but most likely consumers are at the same risk no matter which console they purchase as both analog sticks are made similarly and are as susceptible to debris. Though various online polls have gathered information about Joy-Con drift between systems, many factors, like the way questions are worded and improper sampling techniques, do not produce accurate results. Because of the lawsuit, Nintendo has been reluctant to comment on Joy-Con drift problems, with the exception of a formal apology made by President Shuntaro Furukawa in June 2020.
However, there are solutions for drift issues. Many users report fixing the problem after dabbing alcohol or applying compressed air around the analog stick joint. Others have found rubbing the base of the stick with WD-40 helpful. The best solution is to troubleshoot via the steps provided from the Nintendo support site. If nothing else works, Joy-Cons can be sent to an authorized Nintendo service center for free repair. In this scenario alone, the Lite is at a major disadvantage, since its Joy-Cons are not detachable and the entire console will have to be sent in. That being said, the sleeker Lite is about $100 cheaper than the standard console, and in lieu of the current pandemic, is more available for purchase. It supports all handheld Switch games but requires separate compatible motion controls for select games like Super Mario Party.
Despite the Joy-Con drift controversy, these products are still selling. Technology is not infallible, which is why tech support is widely available, and these issues are not limited to Switch systems. Drifting has been experienced with PlayStation, Xbox, and more. Some consumers have opted out of purchasing either Switch system due to Joy-Con drift fear, but it’s arguably more prevalent in the media because of the lawsuit and Nintendo’s original stance on only fixing controllers under warranty. Thankfully, Nintendo is now handling Joy-Con problems more ethically. Those really wanting to experience either console should do so knowing any product is at risk of faults — a chance all consumers take — and the only Joy-Con spec to consider is its detachability. Finally, rumors of a new Nintendo Switch console in the works could mean Joy-Con improvements for patient consumers. As Nintendo is also afflicted financially and reputably by drift issues, this is likely at the forefront of improvements for any new device in development.