Sony PS5 DualSense Is A Ticking Time Bomb To Stick Drift Claims Teardown Analysis

PS5 Controller
Earlier this month, we talked about a class-action lawsuit that was being formulated against Sony's PlayStation 5 DualSense controller. Chimicles Schwartz Kriner & Donaldson-Smith LLP, the law firm that sparked the lawsuit, alleged that the Dual Sense controllers were prone to joystick drift, which means that the controllers "will automatically register movement when the joystick is not being controlled and interfere with gameplay."

Now, the teardown experts at iFixit have revisited the DualSense controller following this new legal action to see what's going on under the surface. Most importantly, iFixit describes that the basic joystick mechanism has not been updated with this next-generation controller and that its design dates back over two decades.

"[The] joystick modules could have been held over from when Seinfeld was on the air. In some ways they’re actually less sophisticated than certain joystick technology available in the late 1990s," the company writes in a blog post. In the case of the DualSense controller, the biggest contributor to drift seems to be the potentiometer. "Over time, the wiper scrubbing back and forth against the resistive pad creates imperfections, altering the voltage readings across the terminals—think of a skipping record or scratched CD,” writes iFixit. Pad wear leads to incorrect readings, which will translate into false movements on screen.

sony dualsense ps5

But that's not all that can lead to joystick drift in the DualSense controller. The springs can become fatigued, which won't allow them to return to their default position. Increased fatigue of the spring can cause a new default position to form for the controller, which can contribute to drift. Other more common issues could be environmental factors like dirt and moisture that can work their way inside the controller. This is pretty much a given, which is why you probably shouldn't be eating Cheetos while you're playing Spider-Man: Miles Morales.

Getting down to brass tacks, the Alps RKJXV potentiometers are rated for roughly 2,000,000 cycles. It's surmised that in a game like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, the average gamer is making 100 potentiometer rotations per minute. If you're a more frantic gamer averaging around 120 rotations per minute, playing an average of 2 hours per day, you'd hit the 2,000,000-cycle limit within 139 days. In other words, you're looking at about 4 months before controller drift could appear.

However, considering that we're in a pandemic, many people are gaming a lot more than 2 hours per day, which could be why we're seeing people reporting DualSense controller drift just a few months after the console launched in mid-November. But as iFixit says, "That doesn’t necessarily mean your joystick will drift at that point—it could fail earlier, or keep working fine for much longer."

You have a few options to help prevent the onset of joystick drift (like cracking the controller open and cleaning it yourself) or sending it off for repair while still under warranty. However, it seems as though drift is inevitable as all major game console manufacturers -- including Nintendo with its Joy-Cons and Microsoft's Xbox controllers -- so it's just something that we’ve all just grown accustomed to over time.