Nintendo Controller Patent Could Solve Annoying Joy-Con Drift Issue For The Switch 2

nintendo joy con
It's been more than six years since Nintendo launched the Switch, its first hybrid handheld console. It's due for an upgrade, and the rumored Switch Pro probably isn't happening. Instead, rumors of a true Switch successor have begun popping up online. A new patent filing from Nintendo points to at least one notable upgrade to the next Nintendo console. The document describes a new controller that would do away with Joy-Con drift once and for all.

Switch owners have been plagued by Joy-Con drift since early in the system's life. After being used for a bit, Nintendo's controller thumbsticks have a tendency to wear down in such a way that they report movement when you're not even touching them. The only way to fix this drift is to replace the component or buy a new Joy-Con. Nintendo has been sued over the defect a few times, which resulted in a free repair program that Nintendo usually honors.

The issue is not unique to Nintendo hardware—other controllers have shown similar tendencies to drift after extended use. However, some Switch variants don't even have removable controllers, and Nintendo didn't address drift across all the Switch hardware refreshes. There's reason to hope for a fix in the Switch 2, which will probably have a better name at launch. While the original Switch and all its variants uses a standard contact potentiometer to measure thumbstick movement, the patent (PDF) previews a move to Hall effect sensors.

Nintendo patent thumbstick joy con
The Hall effect thumbstick shown in Nintendo's patent application.

There are numerous drift fix kits and third-party controllers for the Switch that promise to solve the problem, and they usually rely on Hall effect sensors. A potentiometer like we have in the current Switch controllers can wear down at the contact points, and Nintendo's hardware seems particularly vulnerable, but Hall effect sensors are magnetic and don't make physical contact. So, there's no wear and no drift no matter how long you play.

The patent was filed with the USPTO in May of this year and was published just last week. It's likely at this stage that new Nintendo hardware patents are related to its next console. Nintendo reportedly demoed the Switch 2 at Gamescom for a select group of developer partners. The console allegedly ran an enhanced version of Breath of the Wild, as well as the Matrix Awakens Unreal Engine 5 tech demo. In most corners of the internet, gamers are expecting to see a new Switch in the second half of 2024. If the Switch 2 really can rival the graphical performance of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series consoles, people are going to put a lot of miles on those revamped thumbsticks.