VGC has reported on a new patent filed by Nintendo that could potentially eliminate one of its biggest issues with the Nintendo Switch Joy-Con controllers – stick drift.
The patent relates to a new joystick design that packs in a “Magnetorheological Fluid” or MRF, which possesses the ability to change its viscosity based on a magnetic field which is itself dictated by player input on the joystick.
In practice, what this means is that when players move the stick it’ll create a response from the MRF that builds resistance in the appropriate direction, before loosening back up once the player lets go to return the stick to its original position.
Stick drift has been a major sticking point (sorry) when it comes to modern video game controllers, especially the Nintendo Switch, with one alternative mechanism cropping up in more premium third-party controllers being “Hall Effect” sticks that also make use of magnets to detect input. Both the MRF and Hall Effect solutions remove the need for connecting parts like those found in traditional potentiometer setups that are prone to deterioration over time.
The patent also alludes to the potential feature of developers being able to control the feeling of resistance in the joysticks, at least as far as can be understood from the language used, where the patent describes, “The speed of return of the operation element [the stick] to the initial position can be made faster in the controller using the MRF.
“In addition, it is possible to achieve both presentation of a feeling to the user by the operation element, and an operation of the operation element returning to the initial position.”
If you’re interested in the technical details, you can take a look at this new patent for yourself right here. It’s possible we may even see this technology come up in Nintendo’s next-generation console, which is heavily rumoured to be a successor hybrid portable console to the Switch and may have even been demoed recently behind closed doors.