Nintendo's Cheaper Switch Lite Could Turn Into an Expensive Problem for Gamers

Will there be everlasting joy in the Joy-Con?

The Nintendo Switch was the Hail Mary pass that the gaming giant needed after the dark days of the Wii U. Now, two years after its release, the hybrid gaming console continues to soar in popularity, having sold more than 34 million units as of March. Nintendo tried to keep its momentum going Wednesday by revealing the $200 Nintendo Switch Lite, which will launch on September 20.

It’s a smaller, handhold-only version of the Switch, and will lack many of the original’s defining features for a price that’s $100 cheaper than the flagship model. There are no TV output options or motion controls.

One aspect of the Switch, though, does carry over to the Switch Lite, and it’s a bug, not a feature. It’s the maddening ghost movement of the joystick on the Joy-Con controller.

It appears as if the problem may get more expensive with the Switch Lite, too.

The Joy-Con controllers on the original Switch are detachable, so if they break in any way, gamers are faced with buying a new detachable controller for $80.

But with the Switch Lite, the plastic joystick is attached to the handheld console. If it malfunctions, gamers may be holding a $200 paperweight.

It’s a problem that’s about $120 worse than if they only had to buy a new, $80 detachable controller.

Inverse has asked Nintendo if it plans on addressing potential controller problems with the Switch Lite, if there will be a warranty or repair program for the attached control apparatus, or if they will be generally sturdier than the detachable controllers for the Switch. Nintendo has not responded to our questions, but we will update this story when they do.

Nintendo Switch Controller Drift

Switch owners have reported a “drifting” issue with their Joy-Cons on YouTube, Reddit, Twitter, and other online forums. After a few months of standard use, gamers report that some Joy-Con analog sticks begin to malfunction and experience “ghost inputs.” Games will move on their own without any player input or the joystick might not respond at all. Here’s a Google Doc of complaints we found this morning.

Nintendo provides a troubleshooting service for the controller problems and YouTubers have posted a plethora of DIY repair videos, but more often than not, gamers are forced to buy another set of $80 Joy-Cons as the fastest route to getting back to playing Zelda: Breath of the Wild or whatever they were playing before things went south. If the same problems were to happen with the Switch Lite, gamers might need to repurchase their entire console for another $200.

nintendo switch lite
The Nintendo Switch Lite comes with its Joy-Cons built into its body. Drifting might require gamers to buy a whole new console or send it in for repair, which might take weeks.

“This unfortunately has become a very common problem with the Joy-Con controllers,” writes Nintendo Support Forum member NIGHTFIRE5. “I’m sorry to say, but the only real way to get your issue fixed is to either setup a repair for your controllers or to purchase a new set of Joy-Con controllers.”

Redditor /u/rainbopython took apart their faulty Joy-Con and claims to have found the root of the drifting issue. The redditor noticed a wearing-in on its contact pad, the component that translates player inputs into game movement. Any faults in this crucial piece and the controller won’t know the position of the joystick.

nintendo switch joy-con bad
"See those marks on the pads? because they are a softer material than that the metal prongs that rub against them, the pads have wear marks after heavy use. These wear marks probably cause fluctuations in the resistance of the pad, screwing up the X and Y readings. This Is why contact cleaner is only a temporary fix. Contacts do get dirty and affect readings (especially with the microscopic debris rubbing off of these pads as they wear away) but there is no way I can think of to reverse this wear."

It’s possible that Nintendo has rectified this issue with the Switch Lite.

Yoshiaki Koizumi, the General Producer of the Nintendo Switch, explained how the controls of the new device will be slightly different than the original in the Switch Lite’s announcement video. But it’s unclear if the Lite will address drifting.

Nintendo has never addressed the issue publicly, even though it has cost gamers hundreds of dollars in Joy-Con purchases or repairs. But if the problem carries over to the Switch Lite, it might be the gaming giant’s moment of reckoning.