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It doesn’t take much for people to get the long arm of the law behind them these days and Microsoft is the latest company to face a class-action lawsuit accusing them of knowingly manufacturing and continuing to sell Xbox One controllers with a design flaw including, and then charging customers to get the fault repaired.
Sounds out of order? You betcha. Especially when you are paying towards $200 for your Elite controller to use on your PC or console only to have it fail on you a few months later with a severe case of stick drift.
Stick drift is the bane of plenty of controllers with analog features over many years and occurs when the sticks register movement even when it has not been touched by the player, This can lead to severe drifting to the side that has to be constantly corrected – in other words, at best making gameplay annoying, at worst borderline unplayable.
On April 28 Donald McFadden filed the suit against Microsoft after his second Xbox EDlite controller failed in quick succession. McFadden alleges Microsoft is fully aware of the problem but continue to seel them and then charge customers for a repair.
The lawsuit, which you can read in full here should be so inclined, states that the design flaw centers around the following statement that “the wiper component of the potentiometer scrapes resistive material off a curved track, resulting in unwanted electrical contact without input from the user.”
This is similar to an issue that can be traced all the way back to the analog sticks on the N64 where the constant rubbing of the gyro inside would wear away the plastic leaving residue that eventually rendered the stick useless without a repair.
McFadden points to complaints about the issue dating back to 2014 and the fact that there are videos online showing how to repair the problem and yet Microsoft continues to sell them.
A recent and similar lawsuit filed against Nintendo in 2019 for an issue with stick drift on the Switch Joy-Cons suddenly but quietly led to Nintendo changing their policy and repairing Joy-Con issues free of charge rather than the $40 of previous. Indeed, they even started refunding customers who had previously paid.
This could turn out to be quite a big deal for Microsoft. The last thing they want it bad publicity around their quality control in the launch year of a major new generation of console. It could well be that they feel obliged to take the same route out as Nintendo did, opening themselves up to a logistical headache over both future and previous repairs.