JoyCon drift has been a problem for the Switch ever since the device launched. While it’s done absolutely nothing to dent the hardware’s meteoric popularity, it’s been an annoyance and an unwanted additional cost for an unknown number of players since the system debuted. The problem is magnified on the Switch Lite because that console can’t swap JoyCons for a new set. Nintendo has faced multiple class-action lawsuits worldwide, though the company has steadfastly refused to fix the problem. The upcoming OLED-based Switch, for example, is already known to use the same JoyCon hardware that the 2017-era system does.
JoyCon drift is the name for a specific behavior in which the controller relays input without the end-user intending it. In severe cases, a JoyCon might turn perpetually in one direction or another, forcing the player to keep pressure on the stick to prevent or slow it. This can range from an annoyance to a game-breaking problem depending on the title and the severity of the issue.
There have been multiple investigations into what causes JoyCon drift and how to repair it. Most fixes focus on cleaning out the joystick to remove grime and dirt that can build up on the contacts that sense movement. This can help fix the problem, but the issue can return again after a period of time. Replacing the thumbsticks is also known to work, though this is more difficult than just cleaning out the mechanism.
According to YouTuber VK, the problem has an additional cause. Over time, according to VK, the clamps holding joystick components together loosen. This allows gaps to form between the metal contacts inside the controller and the graphite pads those contacts, erm, make contact with. According to his channel, squeezing the middle of a JoyCon controller can restore connection and temporarily stop JoyCon drift. For a more permanent solution, he recommends inserting a piece of paper 1mm thick — something like a business card. The thicker stock probably helps the repair hold for longer.
According to VK, this fix can work even if there’s dirt and dust built up between the contacts and the pads, meaning it isn’t necessary to keep cleaning out the JoyCon to keep drift at bay. He claims Nintendo could fix the problem by adding a single screw to the existing design. According to him, inserting a 1mm thick piece of paper stock has kept his own Switch drift-free for over two months.
We’re not going to claim that this definitively fixes the Switch on the basis of any single repair method, but it’s not impossible that it could. If it does, it raises serious questions about what kind of investigation Nintendo actually conducted into the problem and how seriously it has attempted to fix it. A paper shim and possibly a single additional screw to fix a problem long-term are not major additions or serious cost adders. Even if paper winds up being subpar and a poor long-term choice, it’s hard to imagine there’s no thin plastic insert that could accomplish the same task. Nintendo launched the Switch over four years ago and has since followed it up with an improved model with a better battery, the Switch Lite, and the OLED Switch that’ll launch later this year. There’s been more than enough time for someone to notice that 10 cents of additional hardware could permanently solve a problem.
Nintendo has offered free repairs to North American customers since the Switch’s JoyCon problem became public, but it’s never fixed the issue. If it turns out the flaw can be corrected this easily, it’s going to raise questions as to whether the company ever even bothered to try. That’s one reason we’re cautious about concluding that this repair will definitively fix the issue. If it does turn out to be this simple, Nintendo has some explaining to do.