Nintendo says it has "improved" Joy-Con analogue sticks, but wear is unavoidable
"For example car tires wear out as the car moves."
While the Nintendo Switch is a beloved console for many fans, one persistent technical issue has continually plagued the device: its Joy-Con analogue controls.
Reports of Joy-Con controls drifting or behaving erratically after a period of time are nothing new, and while the company still faces a class-action lawsuit over the issue, Nintendo's president has apologised for the situation.
Now, in a developer interview timed alongside today's launch Nintendo Switch OLED, Nintendo has addressed the issue again and said it has made improvements - but that some wear and tear is unavoidable.
"Joy-Con controllers have lots of different features, so we've been continuing to make improvements that may not always be visible," said Toru Yamashita, deputy general manager of Nintendo's technology development department. "Among others, the analog-stick parts have continuously been improved since launch, and we are still working on improvements."
There's no explicit acknowledgment of stick drift or other issues, but Yamashita gets close to it - simply stating that the original Joy-Con made for the Switch's launch (often cited as the most liable to experience issues) still passed Nintendo's quality control.
"The analog stick at first release cleared the Nintendo reliability test using the method of rotating the stick while continually applying a load to it, with the same criteria as the Wii U GamePad's analog stick," Yamashita added. "As we have always been trying to improve it as well, we have investigated the Joy-Con controllers used by the customers and repeatedly improved the wear resistance and durability."
Nintendo's Joy-Con parts are custom made, Yamashita continued, and the company has both "improved the reliability test" and made "changes to improve durability".
These changes have already been rolled out, into controllers shipped with the Nintendo Switch Lite, and others sold individually at the time.
But Nintendo's Ko Shiota, general manager of the company's technology development division, said that some wear was unavoidable - and likened the movement seen in Joy-Con controllers to the kind that wears down car tires.
"Car tires wear out as the car moves, as they are in constant friction with the ground to rotate," Shiota said. "So with that same premise, we asked ourselves how we can improve durability, and not only that, but how can both operability and durability coexist? It's something we are continuously tackling."
"The degree of wear depends on factors like the combination of the materials and forms," Yamashita concluded, "so we continue to make improvements by researching which combinations are less likely to wear."
In January, the European Commission released a statement outlining its potential next steps regarding Nintendo Switch Joy-Con drift, prompted by calls for it to act from its own European Consumer Organisation (BEUC). The matter is currently in the EC's hands.