One of the Nintendo Switch’s persistent flaws has been Joy-Con drift, a phenomenon where players observe false inputs when they aren’t even touching the joysticks on the controllers. Nintendo has been relatively quiet on the subject for years, and the company refused to say whether the new OLED-equipped Nintendo Switch OLED had fixed the issue. But today, the company is breaking its silence in a big way — and suggesting that Joy-Con drift may never be fully addressed.
In a new Q&A about the development of the Nintendo Switch OLED, the company reveals that it has steadily been making improvements to the Joy-Cons to try and make them more reliable. The joysticks that came with 2019’s Switch Lite aren’t the same as those in the original 2017 Switch, and they’re continually getting refined.
But Ko Shiota, a Nintendo executive who also serves as GM of Nintendo’s Technology Development Division, basically says that the Joy-Con will always wear down over time.
Do you mean that, basically, wear is unavoidable as long as the parts are physically in contact?
Shiota: Yes, for example car tires wear out as the car moves, as they are in constant friction with the ground to rotate. So with that same premise, we asked ourselves how we can improve durability, and not only that, but how can both operability and durability coexist? It’s something we are continuously tackling.
The joysticks included with the OLED model “are the latest version with all the improvements,” as are the joysticks that ship with the base Nintendo Switch, the Switch Lite, Joy-Con controllers, and Pro Controllers, the company says. “The analog-stick parts have continuously been improved since launch, and we are still working on improvements,” says deputy general manager Toru Yamashita. When you get your Joy-Cons repaired, Yamashita says they’ll use the latest versions of those sticks for the repairs as well.
The OLED Switch will be released on Friday, and we’ll have to wait and see if these improvements actually make the Joy-Cons more resilient to drift over time. But it seems that Nintendo never expects to solve Joy-Con drift entirely.
The full interview is long, but worth reading in full, as it’s a rare opportunity to hear straight from Nintendo about how it develops hardware.