I Despise Joy Con Drift, But I’m Learning To Live With It

I Despise Joy Con Drift, But I’m Learning To Live With It
Image: Nintendo, Broken Joy Con gifted to Tom Nook by Nathan Grayson
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Back when this era of social distancing began two months and also an incalculable number of years ago, I was playing Dragon Quest XI on my Switch. I noticed that, every once in a while, my character would take a few steps forward or turn slightly of his own accord. I’d read the horror stories, so I immediately knew what I was dealing with: that dreaded joy killer, Joy Con drift. Really though, it wasn’t so bad. I decided I’d learn to live with it. That was a mistake.

I had my reasons. For one, it was early days as far as covid-19 was concerned, and I was afraid of doing anything that involved potential contact with other people, even if that just meant taking my Switch in for repairs or ordering a new Joy Con. Flash forward a couple months, and Nintendo’s repair centres are temporarily out of commission. New Joy Cons are hard to come by online. It’s not impossible to buy one; you’ve just gotta do some digging and maybe be willing to roll the dice on a used unit.

But now, it is too late for me. At some point during the aforementioned two months, a terrible switch flipped in my brain—the same one that has convinced me to hang onto an ancient iPhone model despite the ravages of planned obsolescence, or that has locked me into a war against my web browser (and common sense), which currently has so many tabs open that it causes any music I’m playing to regularly glitch out like the middle of a dubstep chorus.

When faced with an especially irritating tech problem, for some reason I think I must endure and ultimately overcome it through sheer spite alone. I will make no attempts to justify this approach. I am a fool, and my obstinance will someday be the death of me. For the time being, I have decided not to replace my Joy Con. That out of the way, here’s what it’s been like living with Joy Con drift:

It’s bad! And it’s getting worse over time. Once, in Animal Crossing, I was trying to do that cool thing where you knock down a wasp nest and then immediately catch all the wasps with your bug net before they have a chance to sting you. Just before I swung the net, my character turned the wrong way. The wasps attacked my face. It was deeply embarrassing.

Another time, I dug up some money in anticipation of putting different money in the resulting hole and growing a money tree, only to accidentally fill in the hole. Oh, and the number of times I’ve made the wrong inventory and dialogue selections? Innumerable. I read a Polygon piece about unintentionally dismissing a beloved neighbour, and now I live in constant fear.

Recently, I resumed playing Dragon Quest XI. I regularly choose the wrong abilities and spells in battle, and—because my Joy Con drift has gotten exponentially worse since I started the game two months ago—my character never stops running. It’s like he’s got a train to catch, and the only way he can be on time is if he presses his body against several walls so forcefully that he liquefies his way through them.

Sometimes, it seems like he’s trying to escape to a simpler life, but the camera will not stop following him. Maybe he and I are not so different. But still, I cannot idly put down my Switch without checking and double-checking that I’ve paused. I never know where my character will end up.

What both Animal Crossing and Dragon Quest XI have in common is that they’re intended to be relatively relaxing, and I try to play them in chill environments—usually on the couch or in bed. But all of these Joy Con drift micro-annoyances mean that relaxation is yet another distinctly anxiety-tinged prospect in a time during which anxiety-free moments are hard to come by. It’s not ideal! Yet I endure, hoping that I will eventually acclimate to the point that I no longer even notice the growing pile of inconveniences sitting on my virtual doorstep. This is how I will win: Someday, my Switch will burn out or Nintendo will release a new console, and I will have outlasted both my own personal Joy Con’s drift and the concept of Joy Con drift itself. Then I will find some new piece of technology to quietly be angry at until it dies.

I have nobody to blame for this but myself. Oh, and Nintendo, who probably should have ironed out this whole Joy Con drift thing before it became an issue that afflicted a colossal chunk of the Switch’s user base. But that’s neither here nor there, like my Dragon Quest XI character when I leave him alone for five seconds. 


  • Ignoring Joy con drift is the worst decision. Mine became so bad that my character cannot walk straight down. I have to literally Zig zag to get anywhere. It’s ridiculous. I’m waiting on a part to fix it myself, because i can’t afford to keep buying an expensive piece of hardware.

  • My left joycon was drifting after a year, its too expensive to buy another pair so I just bought and used the Hori left joycon with the digipad instead. It’s still fine after 15 months !!

  • My launch joy cons are fine because they’ve only been used once. They are way too small for any extended play session. I break out the pro every time and got a second one for multiplayer.

    • Beware then, my pro controller has drift as well. I have the Splatoon pro controller and I’ve used it a lot in the last couple of years but it’s starting to get pretty bad with drift.

  • Yep mine has this too but i couldn’t find anything on the Nintendo website about getting them fixed, I’m now well out of warranty and new ones are expensive. So I’m stuck. Interesting how no-one seems mad or surprised that Nintendo are ignoring this. Shit sucks. I first saw drift within 6 months of use and I’m not rough with my gear.

    • Yes, when it seems that Nintendo was offering free repairs and how to go about doing them, it didn’t seem to get passed on to Nintendo of Australia.

      • There is an email address on the Nintendo support page, email that, say you have joy con drift and they now will organise repair for free.

        • Cheers. I’ll have to look into that sometime. The Hobi replacement I bought for the left only works with it connected to the Switch so I’ve had to use the drifty one for Ring Fit. Which is… interesting.

    • I contacted the ACCC, they contacted Nintendo, and they are replacing my joy cons for free that are out of warranty, so it’s worth the few emails.

  • Hot tip. Fix it via parts off eBay! As a sausage fingered individual, I was astonished that I could fix it myself successfully. Seriously. It’s a little tricky but it’s fairly straight forward. Saves you $$$! You will need a console screwdriver set but those are $20 and work for everything.

    • The point is you shouldn’t have to fucking do this. Why should anyone spend $20+ on fixing them by hand when they already paid way too much for them and they’re under warranty.

      • Because warranty repairs means shouldering the cost of sending them off and going without them for however long it takes to fix it.

  • I always enjoy the mental gymnastics Nintendo fans go through to justify all the bullshit they have to put up with. The joycons and general hardware of the Switch is cheap, garbage. Not only that, but they’re insanely overpriced. $120AUD? What a joke.

    You see it on all forms of social media. “It’s not that bad”. “You can buy a kit off Amazon to fix them yourself”. “Nintendo fixed mine but they were gone for 3 weeks, it wasn’t that bad”.

    Like fuck me – how many more excuses do you need to make. They’re a ripoff and they shouldn’t have this issue.

  • Mine had shocking drift for months and months, I was resigned to it and felt certain I would eventually have to shell out for a new pair. But I read an article that mentioned sometimes the issue can be as simple as debris around the joystick sensor, that can be dislodged with a can of compressed air. I didn’t have any, so I dampened a cotton tip and carefully cleaned under the rubber skirting, dislodging some random hairs and dust. I tested it and, to my amazement, it was working 100%! If you have Joycon drift, don’t assume the worst, give this a try. I hope this saves someone drift-related heartache!

  • Mine started drifting a few weeks ago, and yes, it’s progressively getting worse. Nintendo recently released a patch that fixes drifting, but only on pro controllers. So obviously it’s reversable, but I guess they don’t want to lose that sweet dough they’re getting from handheld mode players who have to buy new controllers for the damn thing… Sometimes I hate Nintendo.

  • Mine too have srarted to drift and returned to be repaired. Unfortunately despite all reports stating that Nintendo and by extension Nintendo Australia ( as reported in one of the other articles) , they are not honouring the “no questions asked and no proof of purchase ” to have them repaired/replaced. In fact, in the numerous emails I have sent to Nintendo Australia, they as much deny that this is the case, so make sure you have proof of purchase. I unfortunately lost.mine and will have to fight it through the ACCC.

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