PlayStation 5 Controllers are Suffering from Drift

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Nintendo may have company in the unreliable controller market, though gamers aren’t going to be pleased with this particular method of feature-matching. Instead of, say, a PlayStation 5 you fold up and carry in your pocket without setting your pants on fire, the PlayStation 5 DualSense controller is apparently suffering from drift.

The DualSense controller has been lauded as one of the killer features of purchasing a PlayStation 5, provided you’re playing a game that takes advantage of its improved rumble. Unfortunately, it looks like the controller can be hit by the same problem that hits Nintendo controllers, namely: Movement on-screen that doesn’t correspond to any button press or input.

Dualsense Drift from PS5

Users have reported DualSense drift as quickly as 10 days after purchasing a PlayStation 5, which tracks with some of the shorter reports we’ve heard about Nintendo as well. With any console launch there are going to be reports of issues, and it isn’t always clear which issues will become real problems and which will fade away. Reports of smoking Xbox Series X systems and the discovery that one of the PlayStation 5’s RAM chips gets much hotter than the others have not, as of yet, shown themselves to be serious problems.

We can assume that some DualSense controllers will suffer drift because no consumer company can guarantee that literally 100 percent of its products will not contain a defect of some kind. It’s not even necessarily unusual to see a rash of early failures. The earliest products manufactured tend to be the ones more likely to fail, statistically, with later shipments failing less due to subtle refinements and improvements to the manufacturing process. The question, therefore, isn’t whether some users experience drift — some will — but whether the issue is widespread enough to become significant.

One key factor to look for when judging the seriousness of claims like this is how many people encounter the same issue repeatedly. A great many people over the past few years have reported having issues with Nintendo JoyCons, buying new JoyCons, and then having issues with those controllers as well. The problem also impacts Nintendo’s Switch Lite.

If we start seeing reports of the same thing happening to Sony’s DualSense, it’ll be a stronger indication that the controller has an underlying issue. Reports on JoyCon design often speculated that the controllers were fragile due to Nintendo’s restrictions on their size and weight. Sony did not face such design constraints with the DualSense, which might mean the problem has a different underlying cause.

Kotaku reports that Sony is honoring requests to repair DualSense controllers under warranty, but you’ll have to pay the shipping fee to send your controller to the company. Return shipping and the cost of repairs or replacement will be covered by Sony.

The Switch has, thus far, survived its JoyCon drift issues unscathed, and certainly without any noticeable drop in popularity, having recorded its best sales year to-date during 2020. Even if the DualSense has a drift issue, it’s not clear it’d do anything to dent PlayStation 5 sales.

Drift, it must be noted, is not strictly a modern problem. The Nintendo 64’s thumbstick didn’t just disguise itself as a horrid bit of unresponsive plastic with a thumb-murdering hat, it also had a decided tendency to fail due to a design flaw that allowed the joystick to grind against the thumbstick assembly. Over time, N64 controllers literally ground themselves apart. We don’t have any teardowns on DualSense drifters yet, but if the problem becomes widespread we’ll see third-party solutions before too long. Hopefully Sony continues fixing the problem as it pops up and nails down the cause before the end of warranty periods.

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