Joy-Con Drift Is Becoming A Real Problem On The Switch

Joy-Con Drift Is Becoming A Real Problem On The Switch

For months, Nintendo Switch users have been plagued by what’s become known as “Joy-Con drift.” Although they’re not touching the joystick on their Nintendo Switch controller, the console still thinks it’s moving. With no permanent fix being offered by Nintendo, they’re just sick of it.

Recently I’ve been doing nothing but playing the upcoming Switch game Fire Emblem: Three Houses, to finish the game in time for my upcoming review. I, too, have started noticing something funny about my Joy-Con. When I was in the combat screen, where the stick on the right Joy-Con controls the overhead angle of the camera, the camera angle would slowly drift until it was directly overhead. In the school phase of the game, the camera would do the same thing, drifting away from the optimal position unless I kept my thumb on it.

I thought it was just me. Then four other Kotaku staffers mentioned that they’ve also been having problems with Joy-Con drift. That’s about a quarter of us.

It’s a lot more than just the four of us, as it turns out. Two days ago, a thread on the Nintendo Switch subreddit about the issue was upvoted over twenty-five thousand times. This player had started getting issues with drift on their Joy-Con after only four months of use.

“And before someone says ‘Contact Nintendo and have them repair it,’” they wrote, “I shouldn’t have to spend $US4 ($6) and two weeks without my Joy-Cons for them to just come back and break again in 4 months.”.

“And before someone says ‘Then buy a do it yourself repair kit for $US1 ($1),’ again there is absolutely zero reason for me to do that on a luxury controller,” they continued. “And yes I consider $94 a luxury controller because my PS4’s DualShock 4 doesn’t drift for years for me and my Pro controller which has had all of my extensive ‘rough’ playtime on it is also perfectly fine.”

He also linked to examples of other people having the same problem, like this person who tweeted a video at Nintendo of America.

That certainly rang true to me. I don’t play many games that require especially rough usage of the Joy-Con on my Switch. I’m not slamming it around playing first-person shooters. Fire Emblem: Three Houses certainly doesn’t require more than gentle movement. Although I’ve had my Switch since it launched in early 2017, the Joy-Cons I’m currently using are newer ones that I bought after Super Smash Bros. Ultimate came out in December.

When you search for “Joy-Con drift” on Twitter, you get dozens of users complaining that their controllers are effectively broken, or asking Nintendo when it thinks this issue will be fixed. It’s similar on the Switch subreddit, where threads about the issue and some possible fixes have been highly upvoted, even as far back as 11 months ago. Fans have taken their controllers apart to try to diagnose the issue. Kotaku reached out to Nintendo for comment, but did not hear back in time for publication.

How To Fix A Broken JoyCon

I'd had my Switch for roughly a week or two when I noticed that my right JoyCon could be removed without pressing the button. At first I ignored it, but then I found the Joycon had removed itself while travelling around in my backpack. </p> <p>There, on the small grey lock mechanism was a tiny chip. Somehow, part of the plastic had either been sheared off, or had moulded around the lock.

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Right now, I own a PlayStation 4, a Switch, and a gaming PC. Out of all of them, I think I use my Switch the most, especially if I have friends over or am just playing for pleasure, rather than work. There is so much about this console to love—the portability that allows me to play games on the subway, how easy it is to show my friends how to use it, and the fantastic games that come out on it.

My drifting Joy-Con is making me question my previous devotion to the Switch. If I’m having a hardware issue that affects gameplay on controllers that are only a few months old, is my Switch really everything I told my friends it was?

The games may be great — Fire Emblem: Three Houses sure is — but a drifting controller is at best a significant annoyance and at worst a serious impediment to play. When the camera angle changes on the battlefield in Fire Emblem, I lose sight of certain enemy units, leading to what should have been avoidable deaths. In more active games like Super Smash Bros., a drifting Joy-Con could mean that the game won’t register your inputs correctly, causing you to lose matches.

Fans have not found a permanent fix for this issue, beyond simply tearing out the joystick in the controller and replacing it with another. At least I know what I’ll blame the next time I lose at Mario Kart.


  • They are not becoming a problem, they were like this from the start according to reddit.

    Apparently spraying electric contact cleaner in them fixes it.

  • I got the limited edition Pokémon switch and its specific controllers do this but they also don’t react to what buttons I press, have a delayed reaction, overreact (eg when playing BOTW instead of a normal attack it reads as a charged attack), or when I tap one joystick to make a slight camera adjustment, it does a full 180 turn around and now I’m getting killed.

    Contacted Nintendo and I need proof of purchase which I lost, and my local game store can’t do a thing because they are limited edition.

  • This is an issue that should not be happening, not cool at all and Nintendo needs to do something about it!

    At the same time, 6 bucks for a fix is hardly the end of the world. it could be much worse

    • It could be worse, but you also lose your joycons (for how long? Weeks?) in the process. Which means you have to go without your switch or purchase an additional controller, bringing that price well and truly above $6. (I’m aware lots of people have multiple controllers and for them, it’s no big deal)
      If it was a one-off thing that was guaranteed to fix the issue permanently, it’s inconvenient but fine. But if it’s this common a thing, that’s $6 and a period of missing controllers every couple of months, and surely we can agree that is unacceptable at least.

      • yeah i know. but its not every couple of months. Its never happened to me in 2 years of play.

        It did happened to my mate and he sprayed some high pressured air into it, all fixed. No loss of controller for 2 weeks

        Like we both agree on, it should not happen and they need to fix this! but there are easy fixes.

  • Well this explains why we were having problems with crash nitro on the weekend

    Playing 4 player splitscreen with my partner and 2 kids.

    Thought it was a controller calibration thing so ran that and it helped for about 10 min before reverting back to just randomly turning in circles for enough time that completely puts you out of the race

  • my PS4’s DualShock 4 doesn’t drift for years for me

    I actually had stick drift issues with a couple of DS4 controllers. The original ones I got when I bought the PS4 were fine. But when the battery life started getting noticeably shorter I took advantage of a JB sale to get a couple of new ones. After a month or so, one of them started to drift on the right stick, and about 2 months later the other one did exactly the same thing. Luckily I was able to just return them to JB and exchange them for new ones and have had no issues since. I’m guessing that might have been a bad batch or something.

    • I was the other way around, my first PS4 controllers didn’t take long to wear and drift but later ones I purchased have been powering along for years.

  • They were definitely less than a 4-month problem. One of the earliest titles I got was Hyrule Warriors (I got the switch a couple weeks before it came out) and it’s a huge issue on that.

    Of course, the biggest pain in the ass for me is losing signal so that you get ZERO inputs in, not just drift, but maybe my fucked up joycons are ‘special’.

    • If you buy Joy cons from EB Games, they’ll do a direct swap on the spot within the warranty period, which I believe is 2 years.

      However they’ll only swap up until the original warranty period ended. As in, my day one joy cons got swapped three times up until March 2019, when the 2 year warranty ran out on the original purchase. And yes, one of the joy cons has died already. Not drift, but the R buttons no long work meaning I can’t connect it to the Switch if that joycon isn’t physically connected.

  • Where was this article 6 months ago?

    Do not pull the Rubber lid off

    Brush the dirt off with an old or new toothbrush – that is the only fix that ever worked for me.

    Tech Slime did not fix it, and tech slime fixes everything!

  • Spawn Wave did a good video showing why the drift occurs.

    Essentially the joystick works by running a metal contact over a plate. However the contact may wear down that plate, scratching it away, therefore registering inputs that don’t exist.

    I noticed my joycon drift issue when playing Skyrim. Randomly the map would scroll, and then menus would cycle. Accidentally sold something i wanted to keep because of it.

    I did the calibration method to help, which did. However, nowadays if i try to recalibrate, it doesn’t detect that i have let go of a direction sometimes in order to move to the next step.

    Gave my joycons and handheld play a rest, using my pro controller in tabletop mode. Have sonce gone back to playing in handheld, and it seems okay. Still, I know it’s there, and it will rear its head again.

  • My left joycon slowly resets to centre instead of instantly snapping back when I let go of the stick. Is this the same issue?

    • No, the issue here is that joy cons register input that you didn’t make or don’t register that you are no longer making that input.

      Mario Kart – not touching and it slowly steers left/right

      Mario Kart – you go round a corner, let straighten up the stick but it keeps turning for a bit.

  • In Australia you can get a replacement Switch, a repair or a refund under Australian Consumer Law, because this sounds like a major fault. A major fault being something that if you knew about when purchasing, would have stopped you from purchasing.

  • Sooo…. what happens when this problem shows up on the new Mini Switch? Ya know, the ones that you can’t replace the joy-cons. Are the poor bastards who buy them going to have broken joy-cons permanently attached to their Switch? Well, sucks to be them I guess. As long as Nintendo gets its money, right?

  • Honestly the worst console I have bought hardware wise, owned every ps, Xbox and Nintendo and have had nothing but trouble (or bad luck) with my switch, case cracking, whole console become bent, joy con disconnects and stick drift

  • Just to confirm, I own 6 sets of joycons and they all have drift to some degree. My girlfriend got the deep red set 2 months ago and the right stick already drifts.

    It’s annoying. Sometimes exceedingly so. But it’s… god… also an excuse to buy more joycons. Which I will do. I should be more angry about it.

  • @kotaku Where’s the article about Australia’s consumer guarantee in relation to faulty controllers?

  • Took mine about two years before it finally went drifting; have also had this problem with a previous Logitech XBox controller previously..

  • I know this doesn’t resolve the core issue of hardware design or construction methods. However my nephew suffered this problem and purchased a new joycon to replace the faulty one, with nothing to loose he sprayed a bit of WD40 to the faulty joycon at the base of the stick and wadda ya know it’s fixed!

    So if you have a faulty joycon and don’t mind giving this a try, let us know if this fixed it for you…maybe try silicon spray also.

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