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Valve says Steam Deck won’t have Nintendo Switch’s most awful problem

Published Jul 20th, 2021 7:31AM EDT
Joy-Con Drift
Image: Valve

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The worst thing about the Nintendo Switch console is the Joy-Con drift issue. Nintendo might fix your broken controllers, but it’s not ready to deliver permanent fixes. The Nintendo Switch OLED will not feature any Joy-Con redesigns, so the controllers can still drift after plenty of usage. Some Switch owners have taken it upon themselves to fix the problem. There’s one solution that works, as long you’re willing to take apart the controllers. You need a 1-millimeter piece of paper, and that’ll get the job done. Valve hopes the newly launched Steam Deck won’t suffer from the same Joy-Con drift issue, saying that it has taken steps to reduce the risk.

It’s not just Switch Joy-Cons that can experience drift. Any controller with an analog stick is at risk of experiencing the problem. If your in-game characters are moving even if you don’t touch the controller, then you’re experiencing drift. The controller registers input that isn’t there. But Nintendo’s inability to permanently fix the issue made the Joy-Con drift infamous. That’s because Switch consoles have been selling incredibly well. The more people buy them, the higher the risk of Joy-Con issues appearing.

The Steam Deck’s controller

Joy-Con is the name of Switch’s detachable controllers. That, by the way, is a great Switch feature. You can always get new Joy-Cons to replace the broken ones.

The Steam Deck’s controller is not removable. It’s part of the handheld console. The Steam Deck still looks like a Switch in handheld mode, but everything is connected. There’s no taking the controllers apart. Should the Steam Deck experience any drifting, you won’t be able to replace it.

This is how Valve describes the thumbsticks on the Steam Deck’s website:

Best-in-class thumbsticks-with capacitive touch sensors built-in-provide a level of precision and comfort not found in other portable gaming devices.

Steam Deck
Steam Deck thumbstick design. Image source:

Valve hopes to avoid Joy-Con drift issues

Given the Joy-Con drift popularity among Switch owners, IGN asked Valve execs about potential stick issues. The designers indicated they’re confident the device won’t experience drift.

“We’ve done a ton of testing on reliability, on all fronts really – and all inputs and different environmental factors and all that kind of stuff,” Valve hardware engineer Yazan Aldehayyat, said. “I think we feel that this will perform really well. And I think people will be super happy with it. I think that it’s going to be a great buy. I mean, obviously, every part will fail at some point, but we think people will be very satisfied and happy with this.”

“We purposely picked something that we knew the performance of, right?” Steam Deck designer John Ikeda added. “We didn’t want to take a risk on that, right? As I’m sure, our customers don’t want us to take a risk on that either.”

Even so, there’s no way Valve can guarantee the Steam Deck won’t get its own Joy-Con drift issues. We can only hope the company put a lot of thought into a feature. After all, preventing drift issues would give the Steam Deck an advantage over the Switch.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.