Switch OLED JoyCon.JPG
Image: Damien McFerran / Nintendo Life

With tomorrow's launch of the Nintendo Switch OLED model, consumers will have the option of paying $50USD more (with regional equivalents) for a system with notable enhancements over the other models - an improved and larger screen, a new kickstand, an updated dock with an ethernet port, more internal memory etc. One thing that won't be improved, based on available evidence, is the Joy-Con controllers - as many can attest, that's a continual source of disappointment.

The issue of Joy-Con 'drift' and the fail rate of the controllers - in which the stick's inputs stop working accurately - has been a simmering topic since the Switch launched in 2017. It's led to class action lawsuits and a fair bit of pressure on Nintendo, and in Summer 2019 it emerged that repairs were starting to be offered for free, even outside warranty periods. It's not necessarily the case in every country and territory, but it does seem to be a relatively common policy that Nintendo deals with Joy-Con issues at no cost.

That's not enough to satisfy all advocacy groups, however, due to the ongoing argument that Nintendo is continuing to sell a product with known and consistent defects. Euroconsumers is a group that represents five national consumer organisations, and has issued a press release challenging Nintendo on its continuing sales of the existing Joy-Cons.

Below are some excerpts from the press release:

The new version of the Nintendo “Switch” console, the Switch OLED, expected on October 8th 2021, shows an unsolved technical problem with its controllers - an issue commonly called “Joy-Con Drift” - that prevents players from playing the game properly. Nintendo is quite aware of this flaw. Yet it still plans to roll out the new Switch with the old problem. Euroconsumers calls Nintendo to account.

... This flaw has previously been raised with Nintendo. Firstly in January 2020, Test Achats/Test Aankoop, Euroconsumers’ Belgian national organization, sent a letter of formal notice to Nintendo Europe GmbH calling on the company to repair all the defective products free of charge and to publicly communicate about the defect.

In January 2021, BEUC, the European umbrella group for 46 independent consumer organisations, launched an external alert to the CPC network about a widespread infringement with Union dimension of EU consumer law, related to the premature obsolescence of the Nintendo Switch.

On top of this EU action, two class actions have been launched in the US, and a Canadian firm has filed an application to begin a class action.

Nevertheless, Nintendo has taken no actions to remedy the flaw or alert consumers. It even issues a new Switch OLED with the exact same Joy-Con design, with the exact same inescapable defect. Meanwhile Nintendo keeps on putting a great deal of emphasis on the quality and versatility of the Joy-Con in its advertisements.

This early obsolescence is not only unfair and harmful to consumers, but also affects the environment, creating a pile of unnecessary and extremely polluting electronic waste.

Euroconsumers states it's sent a letter to Nintendo with four requests: to adequately inform consumers of drift and clarify an expected lifecycle on packaging; fully respect the legal product guarantee without the burden of proof or cost to consumers; provide clear contact details at Nintendo for resolving the Joy-Con issue; resolve the flaw to ensure a "more sustainable version of the controllers". Euroconsumers also makes clear that it'll participate in dialogue and testing with Nintendo.

Of course, there's been a lot of attention on Joy-Con controllers that has led to various formal complaints like this; Nintendo President Shuntaro Furukawa even issued an apology to investors in Summer 2020. Beyond some speculation at different points, however, there's little evidence to suggest a notable improvement in Joy-Con design or reliability in recent times.

Nintendo's approach to the issue has often been to say very little, and it's arguably said all it's going to pending any legal resolutions. With the OLED model arriving, however, Joy-Con drift is getting some renewed airtime.

It's also worth noting that Switch owners have come up multiple DIY Joy-Con fixes like this one, albeit this brings its own challenges and risks.

Let us know what you think of the Euroconsumer comments, and indeed the ongoing issue of Joy-Con 'drift'.

[source euroconsumers.org, via europeangaming.eu]