Yesterday, the collective gaming media released our impressions of the Nintendo Switch, based on early retail hardware. During my time with the system, I had no major technical difficulties. Everything went without a hitch.
Unfortunately, I'm not the only person with a Switch and many of those other folks did have issues. Reviewers began mentioning disconnection issues with the Switch's Joy-Cons, noticeably the left one.
I've just experienced some left Joy Con sync issues with my grey system. Seems to be a universal issue. https://t.co/2wgPe8h8gI— Jeremy Parish (@gamespite) February 23, 2017
The Switch left JoyCon's sync issues have been so bad for me that I can't play Zelda on my TV with it - using the pro controller instead.— Jason Schreier (@jasonschreier) February 23, 2017
I've played roughly 20 hours of Zelda and it's happened 2-3 times. https://t.co/5sGBotcIjG— Jose Otero (@jose_otero) February 23, 2017
The issue causes the analog stick on the Joy-Con L to stop reporting to the Switch itself. In Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, this is manifested by Link continuing to move in whatever direction he was already heading. The severity of the problem varies from reviewer to reviewer.
GameXplain did a few tests and took a stab at explaining what the potential Joy-Con issue is. They found that the user's hands can actually obscure the Bluetooth signal sent by either Joy-Con. The folks at GameXplain were able to replicate the issue by completely covering their Joy-Cons with their hands or even hiding the units behind their backs.
A further video by YouTuber Blunty jumped off the GameXplain explanation and hazarded that the problem is with the Bluetooth signal strength of the Joy-Cons. He reckons that the signal strength is low to conserve power, making the signal more susceptible to interference. Assuming that's the case, Nintendo could fix the issue with a firmware update, boosting signal strength, but likely lowering the battery life of the Joy-Cons.
Others have done tests and guessed that distance may also be an issue. The problem is not all these reviewers were playing in huge spaces and I'm sure none of them played with their Joy-Cons behind their backs.
In my own tests, I had to work very hard to get the Joy-Cons to disconnect. With basic line-of-sight I had no issues with the Joy-Cons working free hand or in the basic Grip, for up to the maximum distance of my space, which is 16 feet. I did not have any issues with covering the Joy-Cons or putting them behind my back until around 10 feet.
Other reviewers doing tests have reported different tolerances. I'd say that points to varying hardware, which could be Nintendo's worst case scenario, requiring a Joy-Con replacement of some sort. The truth is we're all flailing around in the dark, looking for the real problem.
We reached out to Nintendo for comment. A spokesperson from Nintendo of America told us that he'd keep us posted. The company is aware of the issue and is currently working on it. For now, I'd give the company the benefit of the doubt and hope they can fix the issue with minimal fuss.