Drifting. We have all experienced it at some point in our lives if we used controllers that harness analog sticks. It is an issue whereby the controller logic believes you are pressing the stick when you are not. Characters jumping off cliffs, or wandering into oncoming traffic (Frogger anyone?) are generally good signs (or bad signs) that your controller is drifting.
The most well known issues with drifting comes from the original 2017 release of the Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons. The issue was so wide-spread that the Internet exploded as they saw their characters acting rather strangely on-screen. Nintendo was the first media-prominent case of an actual lawsuit against drifting. The lawsuit from 2019 alleged unlawful as well as unfair conduct on part of Nintendo. It also stated that the drifting contributes towards consumer fraud.
These are all bold statements, considering drift could be relatable to wear and tear. However one-two years of use should not account for the amount of drift being noticed. Nintendo did respond with a claim that they would reportedly fix drifting controllers free of charge even if they fell outside of their warranty period. Further hype was made when a mother and son combo decided to attempt to sue Nintendo for $5 million because the boy was unable to play his games.
Nintendo have since seen a second lawsuit against them. Within the second lawsuit, lawyers have outlined a technical breakdown completed by an expert. The expert suggested that Joy-Con drift is actually caused by wear on the interior pads of the Joy-Con controller itself. The court lawyers have also stated that Nintendo are not appropriately informing its customers, causing consumer advocacy investigations in some European countries.
Microsoft have also seen allegations against their technology after a lawsuit The lawsuit was filed by plaintiff Donald McFadden on April 28 2020 in the US District Court for the Western District of Washington. The issue is worsened when it became apparent that consumers are having to pay for their repairs due to a rather small 90-day warranty period on controllers.
But now the world looks on as Sony are also receiving Internet allegations about controller drifting. Their new generational controller is supposed to be at the peak of technological excellence. However teardowns have shown that the DualSense uses similar analog sticks to the PlayStation 4’s DualShock 4. The report makes sense as the DualShock 4 actually suffered from drifting also. The most concerning issue with the reports on the PlayStation 5 controllers wearing out is that the console was only launched very recently – showing a faster degradation than even the Nintendo controllers.
So what is the bottom line? Are the issues across all three giants of the video game world highlighting flaws with the design of a thumb-stick? The evidence would suggest that even billions of dollars of investment has not designed the perfect controller. People may argue that the thumbstick has been around since the PlayStation and Xbox days and there were no complaints back then. However, these were times when people were more accepting. I for one would have either repaired or discarded a controller as the Internet was not a platform available to vent on. But remember the Nintendo 64 attempt at a thumbstick? If you didn’t break one of those then you have not been gaming enough.
If you have been effected by controller drifting and any of the issues raised…thumbs down.