Two in five UK Nintendo Switch ‘Classic’ owners have experienced a persistent controller fault that can render the best-selling video games console almost unplayable, Which? research has found.
‘Drift’ is an infuriating flaw with Nintendo’s Joy-Con controllers, which causes video game characters to move about on screen or cameras to zoom out awkwardly without the player even touching the control stick.
A shocking 40 per cent of Nintendo Switch Classic owners surveyed by Which? reported experiencing drift, which first surfaced as a problem soon after the console was launched in 2017.
Of those who reported drift, around six in 10 (57%) said the problems occured in the first year of them owning the games console, famed for Animal Crossing, Mario, The Legend of Zelda and other popular game franchises.
Which? asked those with a drift problem who did not contact Nintendo nor tried to do a repair themselves whether they bought a replacement controller – and half (50%) of them said that they had.
Brand new Joy-Con controllers can cost around £70 a pair, an expense many families struggling during the cost of living crisis could do without.
Around a quarter (26%) of owners with problems did contact Nintendo for a replacement or fix. Which?’s further analysis – which excluded respondents who tried to repair the controller themselves – found one in five (19%) did not receive a free repair or replacement Joy-Con controller, likely leaving struggling consumers to cover the ‘drift deficit’ themselves. Another one in five (18%) had to cover the postage costs.
Which?’s findings suggest that consumers are either simply not contacting Nintendo when this fault appears, as was the case for seven in 10 (73%), or they are facing a lottery when they do contact Nintendo for a free fix or replacement controller.
This is despite Nintendo now offering a 24-month warranty on Switch consoles that should allow consumers to get a free fix or replacement controller.
The potential reasons consumers do not contact Nintendo for a free fix or replacement could range from a lack of awareness that getting a free fix or replacement is an option that is available to them, to not knowing that drift is a wider fault and thinking they have caused it themselves or having concerns about the Nintendo customer support journey.
Which? attempted to understand if drift can be detected through pre-release durability testing. This is a form of testing used by a lot of manufacturers to check if products are built to last, but Which?’s testing suggests that this type of testing alone is not enough to identify the drift problem.
Which? bought a range of Switch Classic consoles with controllers and put them through durability testing designed to replicate six, 12 and 18 months of use. This testing, conducted at a highly qualified lab, was unable to locate any instances of drift.
While there is a chance that these test consoles were in the six in 10 (60 per cent) that did not develop drift in Which?’s survey, it more likely indicates how hard it is to replicate the real world conditions in which drift occurs – with durability tests possibly not accounting for everyday hazards in the home like dust and crumbs. Nintendo has previously claimed, in an ‘Ask the Developer’ article on its own website last year, to have done other reliability tests on the Joy-Con controllers but Which?’s research suggests a lot of consumers are still experiencing problems with drift.
Which? is calling for Nintendo to commission an independent investigation into the causes of drift on Joy-Con controllers and make the findings and outcomes of this investigation publicly available.
The consumer champion also wants Nintendo to commit to a ‘no-quibble’ and completely free of charge repair or replacement of all Joy-Con controllers sold in the UK that have developed drift since the Nintendo Switch Classic launched in 2017.
The video game giant must also promote this scheme so that all consumers that are affected are aware they can access free support.
Rocio Concha, Which? Director of Policy and Advocacy, said:
“Our research shows that drift problems continue to plague Nintendo Switch owners yet too often they can be left footing the bill themselves to replace faulty controllers or face a lottery when they contact Nintendo for support.
“Nintendo needs to commission an urgent independent investigation into why this problem occurs and make the findings public. The video game giant must also commit to completely free of charge repairs or replacements for those affected by the problem and must promote this scheme so that consumers know that support is available.”
Helen was receiving treatment for cancer, when her husband bought a Switch Classic console in 2020 to entertain their daughter.
The console lasted until 2022 when it was handed to their son, who is 10 and has autism. After the console started to drift in early 2022, the boy was devastated by the issue and could not understand why it was happening.
As the console was just out of its 24-month warranty, the family bought a toolkit online to attempt to fix the issue but they could not. They even borrowed Joy-Cons from a neighbour but they have recently started to drift too. So now they have a drifting Switch and a very frustrated son who cannot use it.
Stewart Allan’s five-year-old son spotted that the cursor was always going up or down on Mario Maker 2 and Stewart instantly thought that the problem was drift.
He said: “The drift issue has impacted myself and my family’s ability to play the Switch. The drift issue has an impact while controlling a character or even just trying to use an in-game menu and at times, in extreme cases, will constantly cycle up or down at times making it impossible to either get the correct settings or control the character on screen.
“I have not bought any new Joy-Cons yet but it is something I intend to do as soon as possible. I’ve been looking at a third-party set of Joy-Cons as the drift issue is something I’d like to avoid again.”
Notes to editors
On behalf of Which?, YouGov conducted an online survey of 919 UK adults who own a Nintendo Switch ‘Classic’ console with detachable ‘Joy-Con’ controllers. Fieldwork took place between 10th -15th March 2022.
The question ‘Did Nintendo repair or replace the ‘Joy-Con’ controller(s) for free?’ had a small sample size of 67. That question relates to this paragraph in the main body of the release: Around a quarter (26%) of owners with problems did contact Nintendo for a replacement or fix. Which?’s further analysis – which excluded respondents who tried to repair the controller themselves – found one in five (19%) did not receive a free repair or replacement Joy-Con controller, likely leaving struggling consumers to cover the ‘drift deficit’ themselves. Another one in five (18%) had to cover the postage costs.
Of 187 respondents with a ‘drift’ problem who did not contact Nintendo nor tried to do a repair themselves, 94 said ‘Yes’ to having bought a replacement ‘Joy-Con’ controller(s) (50%).
The survey referred to Nintendo Switch ‘Classic’ consoles with detachable ‘Joy-Con’ controllers, rather than the Nintendo Switch Lite or the Switch ‘OLED’.
How to get Nintendo to fix Joy-Con drift
Check the stick configuration:
Is your Switch still in warranty?: Nintendo offers a 24-month warranty on all Switch consoles, so identify when you bought the console and see if it still qualifies.
Contact Nintendo: If the above does not address the issue, contact Nintendo to request a repair. You can use this link to do so.
Your legal rights – Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, any products you buy should remain fit for purpose, of satisfactory quality and as described for up to six years after purchase. If not, then you can make the case for a repair or replacement. Find out more on your legal rights here – https://www.which.co.uk/
consumer-rights/advice/what- do-i-do-if-i-have-a-faulty- product-aTTEK2g0YuEy
Tell us your story – Which? wants to hear from anyone with a Switch that has developed drift. Contact Which? about your story at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rights of reply
“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.”
Which? is the UK’s consumer champion, here to make life simpler, fairer and safer for everyone. Our research gets to the heart of consumer issues, our advice is impartial, and our rigorous product tests lead to expert recommendations. We’re the independent consumer voice that influences politicians and lawmakers, investigates, holds businesses to account and makes change happen. As an organisation we’re not for profit and all for making consumers more powerful.
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