Nintendo's Joy-Con headache is only just beginning, with the company now facing a class-action lawsuit relating to the drifting analogue sticks on its innovative Switch controllers. The company has issued a statement on the matter, and – given its above-average track record on this kind of thing – we don't doubt for a second that it will take the appropriate course of action to make sure its customers are happy, but the timing of this particular problem couldn't be worse for truly dedicated Nintendo fans, like myself – because it throws into doubt an impending hardware purchase.
In September, Nintendo will release the Switch Lite, the first of what could be several different hardware variants of the base console. The focus of the Switch Lite is portability – so much so that it sacrifices the ability to connect to your TV – and one of the ways that Nintendo has ensured it is as robust as possible is to remove the Joy-Con controllers entirely. Instead, the sticks and buttons are hardwired into the machine, very much like a traditional handheld like the 3DS or PS Vita. I'm pretty sure you can see where this is headed.
Once those sticks start misbehaving, the whole console is effectively junked
While the Joy-Con issue is annoying, at least you can switch (no pun intended) to your spare set of controllers, or simply repair or replace them as they fail. Not an ideal situation by any stretch of the imagination – especially when you consider that it can cost you as much as $40 / $50 for Nintendo to repair a single Joy-Con in the US – but at least you have the option of swapping out a defective Joy-Con for a working one and your base console is unaffected. You're not going to have that option with the Switch Lite; once those sticks start misbehaving, the whole console is effectively junked.
For this reason, I'm going to avoid buying a Switch Lite at launch. Given the not inconsiderable amount of cash involved, there's no way I'm willing to take a punt on what could become defective hardware in the space of a few months. To be honest, it's always a wise policy to wait and see before buying any piece of new technology; early production issues come to light quickly and manufacturers fix them as they appear (remember the Joy-Con problem we had back at launch? Nintendo fixed that post-haste). Still, Nintendo's track record in this regard is better than most (I still remember getting my DS Lite repaired free of charge many years after purchase because of a cracked hinge) and I had set my heart on owning one of these little beauties on day one, but I've put that dream to bed until I know for sure the company has fixed things up. Sure, Nintendo's warranty will cover you for 12 months, but what if it fails after you've owned it for a year? Also, what if you don't have Nintendo Switch Online and haven't backed up your save data? Worse still, what if you've sunk hundreds of hours into one of the many games that don't support cloud saves, even to Nintendo Switch Online subscribers?
Of course, there's the slim chance that the Switch Lite uses an entirely different analogue mechanism to the existing Joy-Con controllers – perhaps something closer to the stupidly robust stick seen on the Switch Pro Controller – but I'd argue that's unlikely. Based on the images we've seen so far, the stick design is practically identical to the Joy-Con one, and I doubt Nintendo would be able to fit the larger analogue mechanism seen in the Pro Controller into the much thinner profile of the Switch Lite.
Based on the images we've seen so far, the stick design is practically identical to the Joy-Con one
There's also the chance that Nintendo has already fixed this problem in production and that the Switch Lite's mechanism will be drift-proof, but given the timing of the lawsuit, I'd suspect that's perhaps wishful thinking. With the console due for release in just over a month, it will already be sitting in warehouses waiting to be shipped out – in short, it's probably too late for a fix, at least in this first run of machines.
This is, of course, conjecture on my part, but there's another issue to discuss here. What if there isn't a fix for Joy-Con drift? No one seems to know categorically what causes the problem; some have argued that it's dust and other debris getting into the controller and causing 'phantom' inputs, while others have found signs that the mechanism doesn't stand up well to prolonged use. Could it be that the Joy-Con stick simply isn't as well-designed as we think it is? That's a situation which doesn't even bear thinking about, as it means that every single Joy-Con on the planet (and every single Switch Lite, come September) could be on borrowed time.
I'm probably being overly sceptical there, and I'm sure that Nintendo's hardware boffins can find a way to solve this particular problem. However, until I know for sure it's fixed, I'm holding off buying a Switch Lite – and I highly recommend you do the same.
Has the Joy-Con drift issue made you reconsider your purchasing choice with the Switch Lite? (665 votes)
No, I still intend to buy one
No, I had no plans to buy one
Yes, I'm holding off until I know it's fixed
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