Nintendo’s got a problem on its hands. It’s called “Joy-Con Drift,” an issue where the analog sticks on the Switch’s detachable controllers, called Joy-Cons, begin moving things on the screen on their own. Following the huge response to a report by Kotaku, it’s become enough of an issue that Nintendo recently told customer service representatives the company will no longer charge customers seeking Joy-Con repairs, and refund those who’ve already paid, according to internal Nintendo documentation seen by VICE Games.
“Customers will no longer be requested to provide proof of purchase for Joy-Con repairs,” the internal customer service details say. “Additionally it is not necessary to confirm warranty status. If a customer requests a refund for a previously paid Joy-Con repair [...] confirm the prior repair and then issue a refund.”
The memo was provided to VICE Games by a source familiar with Nintendo's updated customer support documentation. We agreed to speak under the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly about Nintendo's internal processes.
When contacted for comment, Nintendo did not respond to our questions about the memo. Several hours later, the company passed on the same statement it released to various publications over the weekend:
"At Nintendo, we take great pride in creating quality products and we are continuously making improvements to them. We are aware of recent reports that some Joy-Con controllers are not responding correctly. We want our consumers to have fun with Nintendo Switch, and if anything falls short of this goal we always encourage them to visit http://support.nintendo.com so we can help."
Customer support representatives have been advised, according to the documentation, to guide Switch owners complaining about Joy-Con Drift through troubleshooting steps, but if that doesn’t solve the issue, they’re to issue a repair “at no-charge.” Importantly, Nintendo is no longer seeking proof of purchase for said Joy-Cons or confirmation of an active warranty.
In other words, the company is telling its customer service representatives that if someone says they’re experiencing Joy-Con Drift, believe them.
Additionally, if someone previously paid for Joy-Con repairs—most reports from people who’ve contacted Nintendo in the past peg the price at $40—they can be issued a refund.
Kotaku’s report sparked an enormous response, with many others revealing they’d run into similar issues. This prompted a vague response from Nintendo, saying it took “great pride in creating quality products and we are continually making improvements to them”—a line specifically echoed in their own internal documentation—before pointing people towards the company’s official support website. A class action lawsuit related to the issue was filed last Friday, as well.
One section of the documentation includes stock answers to two common questions people might ask representatives related to Joy-Con Drift: whether it will be an issue with the upcoming Switch Lite hardware revision (“We expect our hardware to perform as designed.”) and what to make of the class action lawsuit (“We have nothing to announce on this topic.”).
Nowhere in the document does Nintendo acknowledge there is a fault with the Joy-Cons, only saying they are aware of “recent reports” and, because of the huge attention it’s received, the company was anticipating more people would be asking Nintendo questions.
“We want to quickly handle these questions to restore consumers smiles,” the documentation reads.
Nintendo’s muted public response is not shocking; it’s standard corporate public relations, especially with a lawsuit in the air. Remember, it took Microsoft years to acknowledge a more serious issue with the Xbox 360, the “red ring of death” that killed so many consoles.
I haven’t experienced Joy-Con Drift on my personal Switch, but our podcast producer Ricardo "Cado" Contreras has. “I've been dealing with it because I don't have the money for new ones and didn't want to go without a Switch long enough to get them repaired,” he told me.
We asked Cado to call up Nintendo customer support, given what we know now, and see how it went. On the first call, he was told to update the firmware of his Joy-Con controllers. After installing the update and going through a calibration process, he was told to call back if the Joy-Con Drift issue returned. It did, of course, only minutes later.
On the second call, the representative gave no pushback, and immediately offered a pre-paid shipping label, meaning the cost of shipping and repairing would be taken care of by Nintendo.
Generally speaking, the Switch is a solid piece of hardware, but folks understandably worry about whether this will continue to be a problem is because the upcoming Switch Lite will not have detachable Joy-Cons—it’s just a straight up handheld. In that case, it’s not a simple as getting repaired controllers or outright buying new ones, you’d have to send in the whole kit.
Given the amount of people simultaneously experiencing similar issues, and given how many Switch machines Nintendo has sold in the past few years, at the very least, this problem isn’t going away anytime soon. Not having to pay anything helps, though.
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