Technology

Nintendo To Soon Fix The Left Joy-Con Issue, Hints FCC Filing

Nintendo Switch Joy-Con Controllers
Image Source: Nintendo.com (screenshot)

Since the Nintendo Switch launch more than a year ago, many users have complained about wireless connectivity issues with their left Joy-Con controllers. The Japanese company has tried to fix the issue via software updates, but the problem largely persists. A newly discovered FCC filing hints that Nintendo might soon address the problem by launching a revamped version of the Joy-Con controller.

The FCC filing suggests that Nintendo has finally found a permanent fix to the connection issues, and it might soon release an entirely new version of the Joy-Con controller. The regulatory filing includes pictures of a device that looks like one of Nintendo Switch’s Joy-Con controllers. The images also show the internal circuit board. The documents were filed with the US regulator last week.

It is unclear when the Japanese company will release the new controllers, though affected consumers would be delighted to know that Nintendo is finally resolving the issue. Last year when users and reviewers began complaining about the problem, Nintendo said the number of affected devices was “not significant.” The company noted that the total number of repair or replacement requests for the Nintendo Switch including the Joy-Con was “consistent with what we’ve seen for any new hardware.”

The number of complaints has since grown significantly. At one point, the company had blamed a “manufacturing variation” for the issue, but it was far more serious. The problem is related to the placement of the antenna inside the left Joy-Con controller. Besides trying to fix it via a variety of software updates, Nintendo had also tried to resolve it by applying conductive foam above the controller’s antenna. But it required users to send their controllers back to the company for applying the fix.

An internal redesign appears to be the best way to fix the problem. Nintendo had advised the affected users not to operate the console near microwaves, aquariums, and other wireless devices.

Despite issues with the left Joy-Con controller, the Switch has had a stellar year. The company recently reported that its profits for the fiscal year 2017 jumped 505% to 178 billion yen ($1.6 billion) on the back of strong Switch sales. It has sold more than 17.7 million Switch units since its launch in March 2017. The company also has a number of interesting games lined up to attract customers.

Nintendo expects to sell 20 million consoles in the current fiscal. It should easily be achievable considering the consumer demand remains strong for the console and Nintendo has ramped up production to meet the potential demand. The company also sold 5 million Super Nintendo Classic consoles during the last fiscal year. Nintendo told media in March that the Switch was the fastest-selling gaming console in the US in the first year of launch, outperforming the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Wii.

Last month, developer Kate Temkin disclosed a serious flaw in the Nintendo Switch that lets hackers run unauthorized code on the console. Switch owners can also use the hack to mod their consoles to do things that Nintendo doesn’t allow them to such as backing up saved games to hard drives, running custom software on the Switch, or extending the capabilities of the software. The “unpatchable” security flaw is found in the Nvidia Tegra X1 processor that runs the Switch.

Temkin noted that hackers would have to short out a pin on the right Joy-Con to run unauthorized code on the console. It brings the Switch into USB recovery mode and sets it up for exploitation. The hack circumvents the lock-out operations that are supposed to protect the Nvidia Tegra X1 chip’s bootROM. If you send a misformed packet during the USB recovery mode, it allows you to send up to 65,535 bytes of data per request. The data gets copied into the application stack because it overflows the DMA in the bootROM.

The vulnerability cannot be fixed in the devices that have already been shipped. You can’t modify the bootROM once the chips have left the factory. However, Nintendo and Nvidia could tweak the code in future units to ensure that they are immune to the hack. All the 17.7 million Switch units sold so far are vulnerable. A good thing about the hack is that it could be exploited only when the attacker has direct, physical access to the Switch.

The Japanese company has announced that it would launch the Nintendo Switch Online service in September. It already offers a free online service, but it has limited features. The full-fledged paid service would cost $19.99 per year or $7.99 per quarter or $3.99 per month.

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