It seems that not even the immensely popular PlayStation 5 DualSense controller is immune to joystick drift. And while there were isolated reports of the DualSense controller experiencing several issues, including build quality and stuck buttons (which I experienced), joystick drift seems to be the biggest offender thus far. Now, the popular teardown YouTube channel, iFixit, has provided a detailed look and explanation as to what is causing this drift.
In a recent video, iFixit conducted a teardown of the DualSense controller, where they noted that the controller uses the same parts as previous controllers. This includes the Xbox One, Nintendo Switch Pro, and even the DualShock 4 controllers. All of these controllers use the same parts, which come from the manufacturer known as ALPS Alpine. ALPS was even kind enough to provide metrics in regard to the lifetime of the components, and using that info, iFixit provided somewhat grim details.
Based on the information, the average lifetime of a controller using the ALPS joystick (movement) components is around 2,000,000. While the push/click component joystick parts is 500,000 cycles. The more the controller is used, the more the mechanisms that keep the joystick centered start to wear out, and there’s where the controller drift comes from. Using these numbers, they conducted an experiment based on some Call of Duty: Warzone gameplay, a game that can give a controller a workout. They estimated that a DualSense controller could start to drift in just over 400 hours of game time.
And while that seems like a long time, I’ve seen some people blow past that number in months. Even if you aren’t a Call of Duty player, this can be applied to any game. Taking 400 hours of game time, if you play a game for four hours or more, for one hundred days, you’ll start to see controller drift. Obviously, that’s being generous as I’ve played 6-7 hours of Demon’s Souls Remake for 10 days straight. Everyone’s times will vary, but you get the idea.
What iFixit has found is disheartening, especially since controllers these days aren’t cheap. The PS5 DualSense controller is priced at $70, which is not something people will want to replace constantly. That goes for the Xbox One & Series X|S controllers, as they use the same components and will suffer the same fate. So what is one to do if they start to notice joystick drift?
Currently, there are two options; reach out to Sony for a repair/replacement or purchase a new controller. In my experience, Sony wasn’t very accommodating with controller repairs. My original DualSense controller packaged with my PS5 started experiencing issues shortly after using it. At first, my “O” button started sticking, which made it difficult to play with. Shortly afterward, my “R2” trigger started acting up. I had reached out to Sony, and they told me there was nothing they could do. I eventually purchased another controller, and it has been good so far. However, based on how much I’ve been playing with my DualSense controller on both the PS5 and PC, I’m getting close to where controller drift may become an issue.
Meanwhile, the gaming community has come up with several “solutions” to combat the DualSense joystick drift. From making sure the controller firmware is up to date to repairing the controller and even cleaning the analog sticks. Suffice to say, since the issue is within the controller’s components, none of these solutions will help. Once those components start to wear down, short of replacing the controller, there’s nothing the average consumer can do.
Here are several examples of the DualSense controller exhibiting joystick drift. As you can see, if your DualSense has been affected, you’ll notice this immediately.
As of now, Sony has not acknowledged that controller drift has affected the DualSense controller. However, this seems to be the same situation that Nintendo was in, as they also denied that the Switch Joy-Con did not experience drifting. That was not until a lawsuit was filed and Nintendo started repairing and/or replacing Joy-Cons for free.
Sony is also on the receiving end of a lawsuit, as a Class-Action Lawsuit was filed against PlayStation by law firm Chimicles Schwartz Kriner & Donaldson-Smith LLP (CSK&D). This lawsuit alleges that Sony was aware of the defect with the DualSense controller but failed to disclose this. This is going to get messy before it gets better, that’s for sure, and could be costly for Sony in the end.
We’ve reached out to Sony to find out if they have any plans to address this and will report back if they do.