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Stop Freaking Out About Nintendo's Joy-Con Desync Issue...It's Not a Big Deal

And the fix is coming out sooner than you will get your hands on it...

Nintendo's upcoming Switch console has been met with quite a bit of controversy -- some good, some bad. And this week's gripe falls into the latter category. According to multiple sources who have had early access to the Nintendo Switch hardware, the Nintendo Joy-Con controllers (in particular the left one) has been desynchronizing during gameplay.

But is this the full story?

 

According to YouTube channel, GameXplain (above), the problem lies in the ability for the Joy-Con controllers to get a proper signal to the console. During their tests, they were able to determine that at a distance of 10 feet, the Joy-Cons lose their connection if there is a physical barrier in the way.

This is a relatively common occurrence for Bluetooth devices when they exceed a minimum of 10 meters, but that would be at least 32 feet -- 22 more than that experienced by those who currently have the console. A simple thing like a hand blocking the Joy Con should not cause latency issues.

So what could be the issue?

 

According to Nintendo, the Joy Cons run on Bluetooth 3.0. The key feature that separates Bluetooth 3.0 from other devices is that it has better latency times than those which use Bluetooth 2.1 (the version found in the Dualshock 4 controller). As those who have set up wireless networks in the past will understand, better wireless latency times means sending out a higher frequency signal. The higher the frequency, the easier it is for that signal to be cut off or damaged by other signals.

While that would explain the issue slightly, it would not explain why something like someone's body would cut off the signal at 10 feet. However, the size of the Joy Con controllers might be a good starting clue.

Bigger is Better...

 

 

It is easy to forget that wireless does not mean unblockable. In the case of the Joy Cons, the wireless signal has to find a way to get from Point A (i.e.: the controller) to Point B (i.e.: the console). Most wireless controllers and devices use Bluetooth communication, but the thing that separates them from the Joy Cons is their size. In essence: a smaller battery and energy output, plus smaller surface area, equals unhappy Bluetooth signal.

Considering how much of the Joy Con must be blocked off in order to cause the issue, I theorize that the issue lies in two contributing factors:

  1. The Nintendo Joy Con Controllers are not outputting enough energy to the Bluetooth radio to keep a stable connection between the console and the controllers.
  2. The lack of surface area on the Joy Con Controllers means that it is much easier than any other controller to completely barricade the signal with your hands.

But not all hope is lost as Nintendo can fix this by rather:

  1. Boost the signal of the Joy Cons by releasing a firmware update that allows the Joy Cons to send more energy to the bluetooth radio. This would partially affect the Joy Con's battery life, but it would solve the issue in a simple manner. Or...
  2. Set up a return or exchange policy that will allow players to return their Joy Cons in exchange for new ones with a stronger Bluetooth signal. This would be very similar to the Wii Remote fiasco just over a decade ago.

So should you cancel your pre-order?

 

The answer is an unyielding no. If not for the fact that the console is still going to be near impossible to find for a few months, then you shouldn't cancel it because this is a simple fix that doesn't need a dramatic response. In fact, there is already news that Nintendo is set to release a day one system patch that addresses the issue, so the desynchronization could very well be sorted before the console even hits store shelves.

At the end of the day, this is all sensational controversy about a problem that can easily be fixed. Even if the lead about the day one patch is incorrect, it isn't so farfetched that Nintendo will fix this problem as soon as possible -- as they typically do.

Published Feb. 24th 2017

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