Switch

The Switch Pro Controller's D-Pad Dysfunction

by Justin Berube - June 7, 2017, 9:01 am PDT
Total comments: 27

A much-needed feature is faulty on Nintendo's premium console controller.

When people ask me what Nintendo's greatest gaming innovation is I often respond by mentioning the D-Pad. The simple input device, designed by the legendary Gunpei Yokoi, has made playing a large variety of games much easier. It’s even possible to use a D-Pad on portable devices without taking up much space. Often imitated but never surpassed, Nintendo's D-Pad design has always been my favorite. I have noticed personal performance drops when playing the same game using knock off directional inputs, so Nintendo has always had the gold standard when it came to designing their D-Pads.

As a big fan of retro style games, especially 2D platformers, you can imagine how worried I was when I first saw the Nintendo Switch Joy-Con didn't have a D-Pad. I understand why, as Nintendo intends for players to break each Joy-Con off to use as a standard controller, but I would still need that D-Pad to effectively play some of my favorite games. Luckily, the Switch Pro Controller was shown to include a D-Pad.

I bought a few Switch Pro Controllers and have been enjoying them while playing Zelda: Breath of the Wild on my TV. The controller is very comfortable, the rumble is nice, and the inclusion of motion controls really helps while aiming in Zelda. However, when I started to seriously use the D-Pad for Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers a lot of problems came up.

The Nintendo Switch Pro Controller's D-Pad is likely the worst version of the input device Nintendo has ever released. The biggest flaw is that it's almost impossible to rock the D-Pad left and right without mistakenly hitting an up or down input as well. It's way too sensitive. If you hold any one direction and lightly rock it, the device will trigger other inputs. On top of all that, the D-Pad is incredibly stiff.

While using the Pro Controller's D-Pad in Street Fighter I often found myself randomly ducking and jumping without even coming close to applying pressure to the other directional inputs. It's infuriating to try a Shoryuken and just walk forward and throw a punch instead.

At this point I'm expecting some readers to claim I have a defective Switch Pro Controller. However, I can promise you my case isn't due to a rare exception. I've tested four different Switch Pro Controllers and each one has this issue. A simple Internet search has brought up a multitude of people discussing this major problem. Puyo Puyo Tetris seems to be another software title this complete design malfunction greatly impacts.

I've even managed to find a YouTube video put together by someone named Ratix0 demonstrating the issue. I encourage everyone to try this out in their Switch settings. Also try rocking the D-Pad left to right without mistakenly hitting up or down on the way. It's almost impossible.

I've read about some Switch Pro Controller owners sending their unit in for repair only to have a new unit sent back. Unfortunately, the new ones also suffer from this horrible design flaw.

Now I'm sure many of you out there are wondering why you haven't heard more about this and I have a theory. First, most people using their Switch Pro Controllers are likely playing Zelda, a game it generally works fine on. I've, luckily, had almost no issues using the D-Pad to tap each direction to go through menus or to select items in Breath of the Wild.

Secondly, the Switch Pro Controller is expensive. At US $69.99 each I doubt every Switch owner has one. And for that matter how many of those Switch owners that do own a Pro Controller actually have a game that greatly benefits from the use of the D-Pad? There aren't that many yet and, as I've said earlier, many of them are probably mostly playing Zelda and Mario Kart, two games that don't take advantage of the D-Pad.

So what can be done? For me I'm writing this article to let people know about this issue. I also plan to call Nintendo Customer Service to file an official complaint. If you are having problems like mine I suggest you do the same. Finally, I'm going to cross my fingers and hope a fix happens and for Nintendo to also release a Joy-Con with a functioning D-Pad so I can use it in Handheld Mode.

One lesser complaint I have with the Switch Pro Controller is with the Control Sticks. If you hold the stick in one direction and release it, so the stick returns to the neutral position, it will sometimes register the stick was slightly pressed in the opposite direction. So if I'm walking forward in Zelda and then release the stick, Link will sometimes turn and face the camera even though I didn’t tilt the stick that way. Luckily this doesn't happen every time, but it's still a problem. Fortunately, developers can take this into account and make the stick's dead zone larger to prevent this from happening and I really hope they do.

As a Nintendo fan that really loves the D-Pad, and the convenience of the Nintendo Switch, I now sit here frustrated. Nintendo managed to develop their worst D-Pad in history on a controller that is more expensive than any they have released before except for a pair of Joy-Con. I honestly don't know what else to do other than to suffer by trying to use the poor Pro Controller D-Pad, or to struggle with the four uncomfortable arrows of the Joy-Con. For now I've done all I can and really hope this gets sorted out soon because I love the Switch and am looking forward to playing many retro style games on it. Hopefully with a good, classic Nintendo D-Pad.

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Talkback

Bman87301June 07, 2017

I hate to have to break it to you, but you're probably living in a fantasy world if you think there's any realistic chance for Nintendo to make a special Joy-Con with a D-pad.

ForgottenPearlJune 07, 2017

Yeah, I noticed the awful D-Pad with Puyo Puyo Tetris.  To be honest, I sort of saw it coming due to Zelda, where I'd often open up the hi-tech special things rather than my standard weapons.  PPT is unplayable with the thing, though, since tapping up immediately drops a piece.  I hope Nintendo somehow addresses this issue.

DonkeyBilly KongJune 07, 2017

Thanks for the article.  Let's hope there is enough noise for Nintendo to listen, even if it is just a quiet refresh without acknowledging the issue.  A Joy Con with a D-pad needs to happen regardless.  The handheld mode is crippled without it, and it also means free handing (my favorite style) is no good for retro or fighting style games.  For PPT, the separate buttons are actually okay in my opinion.  I guess it is because each command is distinct (left, right, drop), rather than making continuous movements.

I mentioned this to Justin, but between him and a friend of mine they've gone through eight controllers because of the d-pad issues.

I've mentioned buying a Pro a couple of times and he's categorically said "Don't do it".

pololmejorJune 07, 2017

I was minutes away from buying my own controller. I seriously had no clue about this. Thank you.

Ian SaneJune 07, 2017

Nintendo's attitude about the d-pad has been widely inconsistent in their history.  On the Gamecube the rumour was that it was absent from the prototypes and thrown in at the last minute because third party devs requested it.  The location was awkward and they reused the GBA's tiny d-pad too, making it borderline useless.  Then on the Wii we get a complete flip with Nintendo suddenly in love with the idea of recreating the NES controller by holding the remote sideways.  Two generations later and the d-pad isn't even on the standard controller.  Kudos to the N64 and Wii U for having post-analog stick controllers with a very conservative and practical attitude towards the d-pad.

One thing that is very odd about Nintendo is that their controller designs have gone all over the place but the most standardized controller there is, Sony's dualshock series, essentially follows a template Nintendo established.  It's pretty much a SNES controller with twin analog sticks and four triggers instead of two.  Nintendo invented the closest thing to a universal controller standard and they let a competitor run with it while they constantly re-invent the wheel, often needlessly.

ShyGuyJune 07, 2017

I too have had issues with my Switch Pro Controller D-pad. I don't know if it is necessarily a defect as much as it is a design flaw.

I have heard people say that it uses the exact same D-pad as the Wii U Pro Controller, can anyone confirm?

Oddly enough, I tried the four separate buttons on the Joycon and that works much better than I thought as a D-pad. What a surprise!

I'm seriously thinking about getting one of these 8Bitdo controllers. They aren't too expensive and seem to be well regarded. I like the looks of the Super Famicom model, SFC30.
http://www.8bitdo.com/

ShyGuyJune 08, 2017

This has a hardware analysis of the problem and shows a possible fix.

http://imgur.com/a/Jruwv

TooFriendlyJune 08, 2017

Yup, I have the same issue. I even went and exchanged my pro controller for a different one at the store, but the new controller has the same issue.


The d-pad on the pro controller has no central fulcrum for the d-pad to rock on. You can push the whole dpad in like a giant button. The older wiiU pro controller may look similar but it does not have this problem. When you push the wiiU pro controller dpad inward at the centre, you can feel the pivot in the middle of it.


Playing charge characters like guile in street fighter 2 is a nightmare on the dpad. Holding left then quickly rocking your thumb to the right to do a sonic boom, more often than not pushes the dpad in, and gives you an accidental up input. I really have to baby the dpad inputs unlike any other dpad I've used before.


I've been playing street fighter on pad and sticks for over 20 years and I have never had this kind of problem. I'm currently ranked 3rd in the world with deejay on usf2, but it actually feels like my biggest opponent is the fricken controller.


Really disappointing because everything else about the switch pro controller is fantastic.

lolmonadeJune 08, 2017

I bought a pro controller already.  I've played some neo geo games with it, and didn't notice any issues? 


I'll have to do some more extensive playthroughs of some games now with the D-Pad to see if i'm able to experience the issues you're having.  Thanks for the writeup.

ShyGuyJune 08, 2017

I get the feeling that the problem does not affect everyone because not everyone use the D-pad the same way. The angle of your from how you hold the controller may make the problem better or worse, and some people lift their thumb and tap each of the directions, and some people drag their thumb back and forth. I think tapping the D-pad causes less issues.

I know that if I was very careful and conscious of my movements when using the D-pad in Breath of the Wild, the problem did not happen.

SorenJune 08, 2017

Ok so that explains my frustrations with trying to switch weapons with the D-Pad on Breath of the Wild (no game, I don't want to change my rune). Other than that I haven't really had many problems with the Pro Controller. I might just go ahead and do the fix Shy-Guys linked to instead of having to deal directly with Nintendo. It doesn't seem like they're either up to date on the problem or if it's high enough on their list of priorities to fix.

WanderleiJune 08, 2017

I wish they let you use Wii U Pro controller on switch.

nickmitchJune 08, 2017

Well, there goes my thread about how much I like the Pro Controller.

Haven't noticed the issue myself, but I'm not sure how much I've really used the D-pad.

ShyGuyJune 08, 2017

Quote from: nickmitch

Well, there goes my thread about how much I like the Pro Controller.

Haven't noticed the issue myself, but I'm not sure how much I've really used the D-pad.

Oh it is great besides the Dpad. I love the buttons and how big they are, I like how it feels in my hands, and the analog sticks and triggers are good.

azekeJune 08, 2017

I bought Pro Controller last week and haven't noticed any d-pad problems yet.

I specifically tested in Puyo-Puyo Tetris demo and found it working fine.

I also connected it to PC and it works there too.

ShyGuyJune 08, 2017

Quote from: azeke

I bought Pro Controller last week and haven't noticed any d-pad problems yet.

I specifically tested in Puyo-Puyo Tetris demo and found it working fine.

I also connected it to PC and it works there too.

Out of curiousity, do you lift your thumb when tapping left and right, or do you drag your thumb back and forth?

azekeJune 09, 2017

Quote from: ShyGuy

Out of curiousity, do you lift your thumb when tapping left and right, or do you drag your thumb back and forth?

I never actually thought about it. I guess i am always tapping d-pad.

When i consciously tried to drag my thumb finger across d-pad i had some erroneous inputs but then i had to work for it -- pressing it much harder than i usually do. Even then, when i was dragging it between down-left and down-right i "up" never occurred. I did get occasional "down" input when i was alternating between up-left and up-right.

Maybe it also has to do with finger sizes...

Nintendo's d-pad usually have emphasized cross shapes unlike say 360 d-pad or Genesis d-pad that have diagonal areas between cardinal directions, so i instinctively never slide my thumb between directions because there is nothing in there.

That type of "thumb sliding" would also cause problems on other controllers -- definitely on 360 controller because it's shape encourages it. It is unusable because of it.

ShyGuyJune 09, 2017

Interesting. This correlates with my hypothesis.

I have noticed that the Switch Pro Controller has a lot more give when you press down in the middle of it compared to other d-pads I've tried. It would make sense if you cut out the rubber cushion on the pad below it would sit lower and the pivot would be more stable.

Donkepal148 KongJune 10, 2017

Quote from: Ian

Nintendo's attitude about the d-pad has been widely inconsistent in their history.  On the Gamecube the rumour was that it was absent from the prototypes and thrown in at the last minute because third party devs requested it.  The location was awkward and they reused the GBA's tiny d-pad too, making it borderline useless.  Then on the Wii we get a complete flip with Nintendo suddenly in love with the idea of recreating the NES controller by holding the remote sideways.  Two generations later and the d-pad isn't even on the standard controller.  Kudos to the N64 and Wii U for having post-analog stick controllers with a very conservative and practical attitude towards the d-pad.

One thing that is very odd about Nintendo is that their controller designs have gone all over the place but the most standardized controller there is, Sony's dualshock series, essentially follows a template Nintendo established.  It's pretty much a SNES controller with twin analog sticks and four triggers instead of two.  Nintendo invented the closest thing to a universal controller standard and they let a competitor run with it while they constantly re-invent the wheel, often needlessly.

The DS phat has a really good D-pad as well, we aren't even talking "good for a handheld" we're talking good in general.

The DS lite's D-pad on the other hand is hot garbage.

Mop it upJune 11, 2017

I actually wasn't aware this is an issue. The D-pad is one of the reasons I would want a Pro Controller, so that's unfortunate to hear.

SteefosaurusJune 11, 2017

Quote from: ShyGuy

I too have had issues with my Switch Pro Controller D-pad. I don't know if it is necessarily a defect as much as it is a design flaw.

I have heard people say that it uses the exact same D-pad as the Wii U Pro Controller, can anyone confirm

Can't compare unfortunately, but I will say that the Wii U Pro Controller probably has the best d-pad I've ever used? The one on the Gamepad is fantastic too, and feels exactly the same, but that's just a way bigger device so I prefer the pro controller in most cases. It feels super precise which is a blessing on Wii U with its many sidescrolling platformers, and it works great in fighting games as well. So anecdotally I don't think they'd be the same as the one used on Switch, I've certainly never had issues with the D-pad on Wii U.

Mischief123July 15, 2017

I gave the Pro Controller a new try, but 3 months after release Nintendo is still selling Pro Controllers with faulty dpads.


So I will return this one like the four before them.


I wonder if Nintendo is even aware of this problem. I tried asking the customer support when they will fix this problem, but all they ever do is tell me to send my controller in. But I'm definitely not doing that. For that price I expect a new controller to work as it should.


Honestly, this makes me so angry. I want that freaking Pro Controller, but not if I cant even play all games with it.

azekeJuly 15, 2017

I will repeat that i never had anything even close to that on my Pro Controller.

ClexYoshiJuly 15, 2017

I think at this point I'll get one of the 8bitdo pads down the road.

Donkepal148 KongJuly 15, 2017

That D-pad is still better than the Gamecube d-pad. Let's not kid ourselves here.

KhushrenadaJuly 17, 2017

I'd advise you to rethink that post. The Gamecube controller is the most perfect video game controller released in the history of video games and slanderous libel to besmirch its greatness will result in swift forum action against any such poster like the kind of swift action you see in Safe Words or reorganizing the forum's structure.

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