Nintendo has apparently decided to start repairing Switch Joy-Con for free. This seems like a generous change of heart for the company, but it’s rather convenient that it’s happening now, just as players started turning up the heat over the flawed hardware.
So-called “Joy-Con drift” has been plaguing Switch players since shortly after the console was released. In case you haven’t experienced it, it’s a distressing hardware problem that causes the Joy-Con’s analog sticks to start “drifting,” meaning the console would read movement from them even when the player wasn’t moving them. It’s distressingly common, even if no one seems to know what’s causing it.
Up to now, the response from Nintendo to consumers has been a sort of vague handwave — up to now, users had to pay a fee and prove their devices were still under warranty in order to even qualify for in-house repair. But Vice yesterday obtained an internal company memo informing customer support personnel to offer Joy-Con repair for free, with no additional documentation: “Customers will no longer be requested to provide proof of purchase for Joy-Con repairs. Additionally it is not necessary to confirm warranty status.”
Not only are they not charging for the repair, but they’ll also allegedly offer refunds for anyone who did pay the repair fee on previous Joy-Con (no word on whether that’s specific to people who complained about Joy-Con drift or anyone who got a repair). Customers need no longer provide proof of purchase or warranty in order to have the repair authorized either.
As much as I personally like Nintendo and want to commend them for taking this step, I can’t help but find the timing a touch convenient. It was only a few days ago that Kotaku put a spotlight on how prevalent the issue was within the community, and its been even less time since a law firm filed a class-action lawsuit against Nintendo over it.
Is this because the company realizes now just how upset customers are over the issue? Or is it because the company might soon be forced to accept culpability for selling a faulty product? There’s also the question of the upcoming Switch Lite, a handheld Switch with Joy-Con that can’t be detached. If Joy-Con drift is as endemic to the hardware as we’ve been led to believe, then it’ll be even more inconvenient for Lite owners as they can’t be replaced — could Nintendo be trying to figure out the issue before it becomes a real bugaboo?
It may be a moot point — some users report that even Nintendo’s repair doesn’t fix the issue and the drift reappears within months, if not minutes. But at least you won’t have to pay Nintendo for the privilege.