Few things about the PlayStation 5 are better than the DualSense controller. It feels terrific to hold, somehow just as solid as it is light. The haptics are truly dynamic, at least for games that offer such support. It’s beautiful. But even the mighty DualSense reportedly isn’t immune to the Achilles’ heel of modern video game controllers: drift.
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When you think of controller drift, your mind probably drifts to the Nintendo Switch. Pretty much immediately after the hybrid console released in 2017, unlucky players came to know the dreaded term “Joy-Con drift.” In other words, the thumbsticks would habitually malfunction sending the console false inputs even when players weren’t touching them. In 2019, Nintendo acknowledged the issue in a comment to Kotaku, and announced a new policy that both offered afflicted owners free repairs and granted refunds for prior repairs. Last year, Nintendo’s president formally apologized for the whole debacle (but didn’t say a word about that class action suit).
Now, PS5 owners are reporting similar issues with the DualSense.
Since the PS5 was released last November, players have taken to social media to share stories about DualSense drift. One user reported the issue 10 days after receiving their PS5, stating they tried every possible fix—power-cycling the console, turning Bluetooth on and off, resetting the controller, and, finally, charging it fully overnight—to no avail.
Another uploaded a video to Reddit that appears to show some serious controller drift. In the 15-second clip, you can clearly see the player’s fingers off the thumbsticks while playing Destiny 2. And yet, the player’s gun—a snazzy sidearm that bears a strong resemblance to Lonesome, a legendary sidearm with a terrific fire rate and some serious punch—drifts across the screen of its own accord. Yes, Beyond Light’s Europa boasts some stunning vistas, but they’re better enjoyed when you’re actually at the controls.
At the moment, your options for fixing a busted DualSense are slim. You could go through Sony’s PlayStation support page, which has a dedicated portal for issues with PS5 hardware, including the DualSense controller. Just keep in mind that the PlayStation’s support team is swamped at the moment fielding requests about the PS5, which is still nigh-impossible to find.
When I tried hitting up support, I was told to reach out to a customer service agent via the contact page for PlayStation support. In a conversation over instant messages, an agent told me to call 1-800-345-7669 and press 1 for PS5. I did so, and then listened to, no joke, a dozen different pre-recorded messages informing me that PlayStation support is not the place to inquire about finding a PS5. I was then kicked over to hold. On the plus side, it was soundtracked by Gustavo Santaolalla’s deliciously twangy Last of Us theme. On the not-plus side, I had to listen to it for 17 minutes. As ever, PlayStation support remains a byzantine maze of conflicted emotions.
Once I eventually made it through to a person, I was told that DualSense drift is covered under warranty. You will, however, have to pay for shipping your controller to a Sony repair center—a cost that varies based on a number of factors, including location and the total weight of your package—but Sony apparently covers the return shipping. No recoup on whatever you pay for that first shipping label.
Theoretically, the ability to tweak a controller’s deadzone on a system level could offer a salve, at least in a Band-Aid-on-a-bullet-wound sort of way. The latest DualSense update, 0210, did not add such support. Neither did the latest PS5 firmware update. It’s unclear if future PS5 updates will add such support.
Kotaku reached out to Sony for comment but, at press time, had not heard back.
The PlayStation 5 has been out for less than three months. It’s anyone’s guess as to whether or not “DualSense drift” will become the next “Joy-Con drift”—stoking everything from a wave of customer uproar to a years-late executive apology—or if it’ll fizzle out. At the very least, hopefully this issue is buttoned up before a vampiric law firm smells blood and kicks off yet another class action suit.