Nintendo Acknowledges 'Manufacturing Variation' With Left Joy-Cons

The official statement, however, minimizes the issue with a 'nothing to see here' tone rather than a mea culpa. 

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It looks like a small piece of foam can fix the desyncing issues of the left Joy-Con controller for the Nintendo Switch, used to better insulate the onboard Bluetooth wireless antennae form RF interference. Nintendo provided the fix when a faulty Joy-Con was returned as part of the warranty. Nintendo has finally acknowledged the issue, sort of, and is starting to officially deal with it.

What the company offered was more of a "Nothing to See Here" rather than a mea culpa.

"There is no design issue with the Joy-Con controllers, and no widespread proactive repair or replacement effort is underway," Nintendo said in a statement to Kotaku. "A manufacturing variation has resulted in wireless interference with a small number of the left Joy-Con. Moving forward this will not be an issue, as the manufacturing variation has been addressed and corrected at the factory level. We have determined a simple fix can be made to any affected Joy-Con to improve connectivity."

This "manufacturing variation" has appeared in numerous press units, including our own, prompting many stories on the issue. If press units had the problem, it is highly likely more than a "small number" of consumer controllers had it as well. Nintendo, however, maintains that there could be additional issues unrelated to the Joy-Con design that may be causing trouble.

"There are other reasons consumers may be experiencing wireless interference. We are asking consumers to contact our customer support team so we can help them determine if a repair is necessary," Nintendo said. If a repair is warranted, the company has said it will repair the Joy-Cons free of charge, with a turn-around time of roughly a week.

Nintendo seems to be downplaying the issue, whether because it is, in truth, a minor thing, or it just doesn't want to put a damper on the huge initial success the Switch has had since its March 3 debut. This is a hardware issue and not firmware, and as with any potential hardware problems, a recall could be in order. That would affect upward of two million Joy-Cons shipped with the consoles, and not even including those sold as extras. That could end up being costly for Nintendo, at least until it can start a new production run with the fix implemented.

Depending on how quickly it addresses this issue on the manufacturing side, the company could also calculate how long it expects before its initial, faulty stock is sold out. That may necessitate extending the warranty for those impacted, similar to Microsoft's warranty extension after its Red Ring problem was discovered to be fairly widespread.

Of course, if Nintendo wanted to be generous to the point of making the story a positive one, it could give online store credit or a free game from the eShop as a proactive mea culpa. Online plans for the Switch should be revealed soon, and while it will be free at the start, it could offer that promotion a longer period. All are viable options.

Nintendo owes its supporters something, because the company brought this on itself. It had months to test the hardware in home conditions before it was released. We'll likely never know if desyncing ever reared its ugly head in tests. If it didn't, it could be because Nintendo knew to always keep the controllers close to the Switch so the Bluetooth signal was unimpeded, or didn't test it in real-world home conditions where RF interference was more likely.

Even if that is the case, it doesn't matter as a company should test its units as thoroughly as the fans will once they get it in their hands. This is not the fiasco level of tone deafness that was the Xbox 360's Red Ring. This isn't an arrogant mistake, although the official statement is less than satisfying, but it is still a mistake that was preventable. Nintendo has shown just how easily fixable it is, and how it should have been handled from the start. 

Contributing Editor

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