PS5 Controllers Are Drifting, And The Repairs Are A Hassle

PS5 Controllers Are Drifting, And The Repairs Are A Hassle
Photo: Sony

Few things about the PlayStation 5 are better than the DualSense controller. It feels terrific to hold, somehow just as solid as it is light. The haptics are truly dynamic, at least for games that offer such support. It’s beautiful. But even the mighty DualSense reportedly isn’t immune to the Achilles’ heel of modern video game controllers: drift.

When you think of controller drift, your mind probably drifts to the Nintendo Switch. Pretty much immediately after the hybrid console released in 2017, unlucky players came to know the dreaded term “Joy-Con drift.” In other words, the thumbsticks would habitually malfunction sending the console false inputs even when players weren’t touching them. In 2019, Nintendo acknowledged the issue in a comment to Kotaku, and announced a new policy that both offered afflicted owners free repairs and granted refunds for prior repairs. Last year, Nintendo’s president formally apologised for the whole debacle (but didn’t say a word about that class action suit).

Now, PS5 owners are reporting similar issues with the DualSense.

Since the PS5 was released last November, players have taken to social media to share stories about DualSense drift. One user reported the issue 10 days after receiving their PS5, stating they tried every possible fix — power-cycling the console, turning Bluetooth on and off, resetting the controller, and, finally, charging it fully overnight — to no avail.

Another uploaded a video to Reddit that appears to show some serious controller drift. In the 15-second clip, you can clearly see the player’s fingers off the thumbsticks while playing Destiny 2. And yet, the player’s gun — a snazzy sidearm that bears a strong resemblance to Lonesome, a legendary sidearm with a terrific fire rate and some serious punch — drifts across the screen of its own accord. Yes, Beyond Light’s Europa boasts some stunning vistas, but they’re better enjoyed when you’re actually at the controls.

At the moment, your options for fixing a busted DualSense are slim. You could go through Sony’s PlayStation support page, which has a dedicated portal for issues with PS5 hardware, including the DualSense controller. Just keep in mind that the PlayStation’s support team is swamped at the moment fielding requests about the PS5, which is still nigh-impossible to find.

When I tried hitting up support, I was told to reach out to a customer service agent via the contact page for PlayStation support. In a conversation over instant messages, an agent told me to call 1-800-345-7669 and press 1 for PS5. I did so, and then listened to, no joke, a dozen different pre-recorded messages informing me that PlayStation support is not the place to inquire about finding a PS5. I was then kicked over to hold. On the plus side, it was soundtracked by Gustavo Santaolalla’s deliciously twangy Last of Us theme. On the not-plus side, I had to listen to it for 17 minutes. As ever, PlayStation support remains a byzantine maze of conflicted emotions.

Once I eventually made it through to a person, I was told that DualSense drift is covered under warranty. You will, however, have to pay for shipping your controller to a Sony repair centre — a cost that varies based on a number of factors, including location and the total weight of your package — but Sony apparently covers the return shipping. No recoup on whatever you pay for that first shipping label.

Theoretically, the ability to tweak a controller’s deadzone on a system level could offer a salve, at least in a Band-Aid-on-a-bullet-wound sort of way. The latest DualSense update, 0210, did not add such support. Neither did the latest PS5 firmware update. It’s unclear if future PS5 updates will add such support.

Kotaku reached out to Sony for comment but, at press time, had not heard back.

The PlayStation 5 has been out for less than three months. It’s anyone’s guess as to whether or not “DualSense drift” will become the next “Joy-Con drift” — stoking everything from a wave of customer uproar to a years-late executive apology — or if it’ll fizzle out. At the very least, hopefully this issue is buttoned up before a vampiric law firm smells blood and kicks off yet another class action suit.

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  • Yep, I’m experiencing vertical drift in both directions but the weird thing is it comes and goes.
    I know it’s new controller but I honestly expect better from Sony, stick drift is the kind of thing I’ve rarely had in PS controllers and the two times it appeared in the past (PS3 and PS4) it took years of extended use to manifest.

    • I bought a couple of DS4 controllers a few years ago to replace my original pair. Both of them developed drift within a couple of months. I just returned them to JB and got replacements and haven’t had any problems since, so I guess it was maybe a dodgy batch?

      But I do wonder how the hell these kinds of issues happen systemically, especially in the wake of the Switch having similar issues. You’d think every hardware manufacturer would have solved this problem by now.

  • My controller that came with the PS5 started drifting. Phoned Sony support (2.5 hours on hold). I was sent a return label. Sent it off. 7 days later I had a new one. The guy I spoke with didn’t even give me any of the usual “how do I get out of having to send this guy a new controller”.
    Overall pretty good service.

  • “You will, however, have to pay for shipping your controller to a Sony repair centre — a cost that varies based on a number of factors, including location and the total weight of your package — but Sony apparently covers the return shipping. No recoup on whatever you pay for that first shipping label.”

    I don’t think this is the case in Australia:

    “You are entitled to return a product if you believe that there is a problem. You are generally responsible for returning the product if it can be posted or easily returned. You are entitled to recover reasonable postage or transportation costs from the business if the product is confirmed to have a problem, so keep your receipts.”

    • Yep no cost to me to either send it or receive the replacement. I thought the service was damn good all things considered.

    • Yeah clearly a US article because no way the ACCC would allow that stuff. And there was no mention of just taking it back to where they bought it.

  • One of the first games I played on my PS5 was the 2018 God of War (just hadn’t got around to it yet) and while playing that one of my two controllers constantly had horizontal drift, camera would just randomly start spinning.
    Hasn’t happened with any other game before or since though…

  • This happened to me with my launch controller within the first month of ownership. The drift was worse on some games but consistent across all.

    I sent the controller off to Sony, they paid for the postage, but I had to supply the packaging. My replacement controller is in transit now. The whole return process has taken roughly two weeks.

    I purchased a second controller and interestingly, it had a slightly different layout of fine print information on the back compared to my launch controller. I’m wondering if there was a different batch in the manufacturing process.

    Also, the inability to use a Dualshock 3 with PS5 games sucks because losing your controller means you cannot play PS5 games unless you have forked out another $100 AUS for a second controller.

  • So guess i can add PS5 to the shortlist of consoles I won’t buy until drift is fixed. At least the switch has a friend now.

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