Nintendo Faces Another Lawsuit Over Drifting Problems with the Joy-Con Game Controllers

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Nintendo Faces Another Lawsuit Over Drifting Problems with the Joy-Con Game Controllers
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Nintendo is facing a class action lawsuit over a drifting problem with their Joy-Con Nintendo Switch controllers on behalf of a minor plaintiff and all other similarly situated minor consumers.

Drifting, phantom input, and stick drift are three terms used to describe the same problem with certain game controllers.

Drifting occurs when a controller’s software registers motion without the player’s actual input; this can result in onscreen movements which can vary from inconvenient to debilitating to the actual gameplay. While this might not sound like a big issue to non-gamers, when one considers the entire purpose of the Nintendo Switch is to provide a fun, quality, gaming experience, an issue like drift becomes a significant problem. Drifting can be mild or extreme, ranging from a mild annoyance to something which inhibits gameplay altogether. For example, Mario might walk off a cliff even though the player isn’t touching the controls.

The official complaint refers to this alleged problem with the Joy-Con controllers as the “Drift Defect”.

The drifting problems with the Joy-Con allegedly occur due to a defect in the controller’s design. According to the complaint against Nintendo on behalf of minor plaintiffs, the design of the controller creates extensive wear on the pad surface of the interior of the controller, and “As the steel brushes inside the joystick move back and forth, they rub away the soft carbon material that makes up the pad, which changes its electrical resistance and leads to the drifting phenomenon.”

The problems with the lead plaintiff’s Joy-Cons began only three months after first purchasing the console and continued in a repetitive pattern since.

According to the complaint, approximately three months after the lead plaintiff purchased his first console, the Joy-Cons accompanying the console began to exhibit the Drift Defect. Since the console was still under warranty at the time, the plaintiff was able to reach out to Nintendo for a controller repair free of charge. However, after several more months of use, the defect manifested again in the repaired controllers. At this time, the warranty had ended and the plaintiff used his own money to repair the controllers. However, when these controllers also began to be affected by the defect, the plaintiff bought a pair of standalone Joy-Con controllers from his GameStop, once again using his own money. At this point, the pattern seems to be obvious. After about three months of normal use, these recently purchased controllers began exhibiting the same drifting problems as the original and repaired controllers. When the lead plaintiff reached out to GameStop for a replacement set, these too began exhibiting drift issues after a few months of normal gameplay.

This is not the first lawsuit over drift issues with a video game controller.

In April 2020, a class action lawsuit against Microsoft was approved regarding similar issues with their Xbox Elite Series 1 and 2 controllers. With both lawsuits, one of the primary complaints seems to be the amount of time, money, and effort players must devote to repairing and replacing these allegedly defective systems, and the companies’ reticence to take responsibility for the alleged drift defects in order to repair or replace the defective pieces. The lead plaintiff in the Joy-Con stick drift lawsuit on behalf of himself and other minor consumers similarly affected by the Drift Defect is seeking monetary relief for damages suffered, as well as declaratory and public injunctive relief to prevent this pattern from continuing to affect future gamers.

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