A class action lawsuit is being prepared against Nintendo of America concerning the allegedly defective controllers used for its Switch console.
Pennsylvania-based law firm Chimicles Schwartz Kriner & Donaldson-Smith (CSK&D) is filing the suit on behalf of plaintiff Ryan Davis. Davis alleges that the Joy-Con controllers of his Switch unit began to malfunction after 11 months. He claims that he sent the controllers to Nintendo of America to be repaired under the console’s one-year warranty, but that once the repaired controllers were returned to him they malfunctioned again in the same manner. He further claims that a replacement set of controllers he purchased suffered an identical malfunction after 13 months.
The nature of the problem is with the controllers’ analog sticks, which begin to detect input even when no input is being made. The problem has been colloquially dubbed “drifting” or “Joy-Con drift.”
Problem widespread but remains unaddressed by Nintendo
The nature of the problem is reportedly widespread. CSK&D told news site Polygon that after soliciting input from other Switch owners who had encountered the same problem, they received “over 5,500” responses within 24 hours. The official documentation of the complaint contains sample quotes from consumers posting about the problem on Reddit and Nintendo’s official support forum.
CSK&D is asserting that Nintendo Co., Ltd. (TYO: 7974) “fails to disclose the defect and routinely refuses to repair the joysticks without charge when the defect manifests and never disclosed this material defect to consumers,” behavior it describes as “unfair, deceptive and/or fraudulent.” Davis is seeking monetary relief for damages suffered, and “declatory relief” in the form of Nintendo publicly admitting to the problem and warning potential consumers.
Hardware failure historically corrected with warranty extensions
Hardware failure on this scale is uncommon in the games industry, but not unprecedented. In the mid-to-late ’00s, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) was the subject of controversy when its Xbox 360 consoles began to irreversibly fail after several months of ordinary use. The problem was dubbed the “red ring of death,” after the red circle of lights that served as the console’s catch-all indicator for general hardware failure. The company claimed at first that the console’s rate of failure was within the industry expected 3 to 5 percent range, but reports from manufacturers suggested that in the run-up to the console’s release, the failure rate could have been as high as 68 percent.
Ultimately, Microsoft responded to the situation by extending the warranty of the Xbox 360 to three years, a period sufficient to determine if any given console would be effected by the problem. The solution cost the company an estimated $1.15 billion. According to then executive Peter Moore, the decision had no effect on the value of the company’s stock, and saved the Xbox brand in the long term.