After years of dealing with Joy-Con drift and no satisfactory answers from Nintendo, we may finally have our solution. A company called Gulikit created a set of Switch joystick replacements that promise to banish stick drift once and for all (via Gizmodo).
If you’re a Switch owner, you’re probably well-acquainted with Joy-Con drift, which creates annoying false inputs even when you’re not touching the thumbsticks. It’s been a problem ever since the Switch came out and still hasn’t been fully fixed in the new OLED model (although Nintendo says it’s made some “improvements”). While you can send your Joy-Cons away for a free repair at Nintendo (or just buy a new set), the sticks will inevitably start drifting again.
Unlike your standard Joy-Cons from Nintendo, Gulikit’s joystick replacements use something called Hall effect sensors to essentially make them drift-proof — the same technology used by Sega’s 90s-era Saturn 3D and Dreamcast controllers. As iFixit points out, the sensors use magnets to detect the joystick’s movement, which means none of the components actually rub up against each other and wear out like the sensors used on Joy-Cons do.
One of the reasons Joy-Cons drift in the first place is that they use potentiometers. This technology deteriorates over time, resulting in incorrect readings that make your controller seem like it's possessed. In 2021, Nintendo executive Ko Shiota likened the problem to car tires that “wear out as the car moves, as they are in constant friction with the ground to rotate.”
That’s where Gulikit’s joysticks come in. The sticks, which are available for $29.70 on Amazon will presumably put an end to frequent Joy-Con replacements and repair orders (that should absolutely not be the case). You’ll have to install the replacement joysticks yourself, of course, but this video from iFixit should point you in the right direction when it comes to dismantling the Joy-Cons. Gulikit’s joysticks also come with a screwdriver, replacement screws, a tweezer, and a plastic pry tool to help you get started.
While we haven’t gotten the chance to try them for ourselves, users on Amazon have left mostly positive reviews. However, there are some saying they leave a small gap between the ring that’s supposed to prevent dust and other debris from getting inside the Switch, although it’s unclear how or if this will affect the sticks (or the Joy-Cons themselves). Gulikit also has replacement joysticks for the Steam Deck, as well as a full-blown KingKong 2 Pro controller with hall effect sensors.
Keep in mind that adding the third-party sticks could void the warranty on your Switch and Joy-Cons, but is still a potential solution if you’re fed up with stick drift. It’s just sad that — in the year 2023 — we have to go through all this just to get things to work properly when the technology’s already there, and has been there for decades.