Another E3 and another year of Nintendo Switch Pro rumours doing the rounds. The pumped up version of Nintendo’s successful console will supposedly feature 4K output through DLSS, a bigger OLED screen and the potential for higher frame rates.
It makes sense. The Nintendo Switch is a fantastic console, but it still felt outdated compared to the last generation of consoles. Compared to the PS5 and Xbox Series consoles, the Nintendo Switch looks very underpowered.
While it’s still holding its own sales wise, It’s only a matter of time until the console really shows its age. Performance aside, there’s one other problem that’s holding the Nintendo Switch back: controller drift.
Controller drift is nothing new, there are countless examples of controller drift in past consoles. However, no other controller seems to experience drift at the scale and consistency of the Joy-Cons. Before we get overly excited at the prospect of a new shiny Nintendo console, let’s address the issue of controller drift and why Nintendo needs to fix the problem across all Joy-Con controllers.
What is controller drift?
Simply put, controller drift is when one of the analogue sticks on the Nintendo Switch controller pulls in a non-central direction. It’s noticeable in video games by characters moving in a certain direction when they should stand still. Controller drift can affect gameplay quality to the point of making some games unplayable.
While there’s no exact proven cause behind the issue, people believe it is caused by a number of different issues. Firstly, many believe it is the result of dust and debris making their way into the analog sticks. The other reason is potentially the worn-down contacts, which are caused by repeated use of the consoles.
It isn’t just limited to the Nintendo Switch. Shortly after launch, users reported experiencing controller drift on PS5’s Dualsense controller. Both controllers aren’t cheap, setting consumers back roughly £59.99 for a new pair.
One step forwards, two steps back
If Nintendo does announce a Nintendo Switch Pro at this year’s E3 conference, it needs to be incredibly vocal about any fixes or improvements to the Joy-Cons. Considering numerous customers have already gone through multiple sets of Joy-Cons - myself included - it would be poor to expect passionate fans to once again shell out for a potential defective product.
Unfortunately, Nintendo’s past actions over the issue do not fill me with confidence. Nintendo tried to argue last year that Joy-Con drift wasn’t a real issue and that it hadn’t caused anyone any real issues. This was of course in spite of the large amounts of video evidence proving the contrary. Either Nintendo genuinely doesn’t believe it's an issue or is burying its head in the sand in an effort to avoid a class-action lawsuit. Regardless of its reasoning, it doesn’t bode well for the Nintendo Switch Pro.
This was also despite the fact it offered to fix the controllers affected by the issue, showing it knew the problem existed. Nintendo’s lack of action in publically addressing the problem leads me to believe it likely won’t be a priority in the development of the Nintendo Switch Pro. It’s a shame that there’s going to be a huge buzz around a new Nintendo console, and all I’m going to be able to think about is how the controller will probably break after a year or so of use.
Fix it now, not later
The smart move would be to fix it alongside the Nintendo Switch Pro launch. Announce an updated Joy-Con controller with improved analogues and a better battery life and bundle it with the new console. With a higher price point, customers will feel like they are getting better value for money. Users of the Nintendo Switch and the Switch Lite could also retroactively upgrade their consoles with a better controller.
The persistent drift problems feel like the only major issue holding the console back. Without it, the Nintendo Switch would be my favourite console. Let’s just hope Nintendo solves this game-breaking issue before the arrival of the Nintendo Switch Pro.