The DualSense wireless controllers for the Sony PlayStation 5 are plagued by a defect that causes characters or on-screen action to move—or drift—without user input or operation of the joystick, a proposed class action says.
The 33-page lawsuit alleges the so-called drift defect significantly hampers gameplay on the highly sought-after PlayStation 5, a console whose November 2020 release was touted by Sony as “the biggest console launch of all time” and the “best console launch in history.”
According to the complaint, defendants Sony Corporation of America and Sony Interactive Entertainment have been aware of drifting problems with PS5’s “next-generation” DualSense controllers, particularly through pre-release testing and online and direct user complaints. As the lawsuit tells it, PlayStation users are unfortunately all too familiar with drifting issues, as the DualSense’s predecessor, the DualShock 4 for PlayStation 4, was also plagued by “virtually the same drift issues.”
“Notwithstanding its knowledge of the Drift Defect, Sony has failed to disclose this material information to consumers,” the case, filed in New York federal court on February 12, alleges.
Gamers looking to repair their DualSense controllers, even those under warranty, have few options, the suit says. Sony’s dedicated portal for PS5 hardware issues is reportedly backlogged and redirects consumers to a customer service agent via the PlayStation support contact page. From there, players experience long wait times and a “maze of pre-recorded phone prompts” before potentially being connected with an agent about repairs for their DualSense controllers, the lawsuit says. Recent software and firmware updates have done little to address or fix the drift defect in any way, and customers whose controllers are in warranty nevertheless still must have their controllers sent to a repair center at their own expense, the suit relays.
Sony’s “unfair, deceptive, and/or fraudulent business practices” have harmed both the plaintiff and proposed class members, the case claims.
Because of Sony’s actions, DualSense Controller owners have suffered damages in the form of loss of use, failure of the PS5 and DualSense Controller’s core functionality, loss of the benefit of their bargain, diminution of value of and overpayment for their PS5 and DualSense Controllers, and lost time and expense involved in contacting Sony and retailers about the problem and waiting for replacements and/or repairs.”
The lawsuit mirrors a proposed class action filed last April against Microsoft over similar “stick drift” issues supposedly affecting wireless Xbox One controllers. That case is still in progress. In July 2019, Nintendo was hit with a proposed class action that alleged the Joy-Con controllers for the Switch were also prone to drifting without user input. The Nintendo lawsuit was sent to arbitration in March 2020.
As the complaint tells it, gamers’ experiences with PlayStation 5’s DualSense controllers are a far cry from what was expected. Emphasized in the complaint is how much Sony hyped its much-anticipated console, with the lawsuit noting that securing a PlayStation 5, particularly in the run-up to the 2020 holiday season, proved to be next to impossible for many gamers. From the suit:
Sony heavily advertised the versatility and quality of the DualSense Controllers for gameplay as a main selling point of the PS5 system. For example, on its website, Sony makes the following representations about the DualSense Controllers:
— ‘The DualSense Wireless Controller is the controller for PS5 including several next-generation features like haptic feedback and dynamic adaptive triggers’;
— ‘Discover a deeper, highly immersive gaming experience* that brings the action to life in the palms of your hands’;
— ‘Enjoy a comfortable, evolved design with an iconic layout and enhanced sticks’;
— ‘Intuitively interact with select games using the integrated motion sensor.’”
While the PlayStation 5 was advertised as a top-of-the-line next-generation system with the power to essentially “rewrite the rules of what a PlayStation console can do,” the joysticks of the DualSense controller suffer a defect that permits them to “drift” on their own, affecting gameplay such that “the characters or action on the screen move as if there has been some movement of the joystick by a gamer, even though there has not,” the suit says.
“Since the entire purpose of the PS5 is to play video games and the purpose of the DualSense Controller specifically is to control the gameplay in those video games, the Drift Defect affects the device’s central functionality,” the complaint reads.
According to the lawsuit, the source of the drift defect stems from a common design issue with the analog joystick used in the DualSense controller and similar products, such as the Xbox One and DualShock 4 controllers. The “common denominator” among the products is the “quality of the unit used,” the case says, citing one report that explains further:
“No [joy]stick is built specifically for a console controller – these are units that have been on the market for years; that’s why the problem is common to different consoles spanning multiple generations…The idea is to save on the construction of each controller, despite the problems that are then caused to the players.”
Sony’s alleged knowledge of the “drift defect”
Alleging that Sony is aware of the problem, the suit reasons that in addition to controlling the manufacture, development, sale and support for PS5’s DualSense controllers, the defendant is also responsible for the DualShock 4, DualSense’s predecessor that was also reportedly plagued by uncontrollable drifting. Despite knowing of the defect in the DualShock 4, Sony nevertheless equipped the DualSense controllers with “virtually the same analog components,” including joysticks that were prone to drifting, the lawsuit says.
“Despite knowing about the Drift Defect, Sony continues to market and sell the PS5 and DualSense controllers without disclosing the defect,” the complaint reads.
Repairs? Shipping Reimbursement? Good luck, case says
The lawsuit argues that Sony could easily disclose the defect in any number of ways; however, the company has not yet indicated whether it has a fix in progress or whether it will mention the drifting problems publicly.
“Nor is there any indication that Sony is extending the warranty, compensating consumers for various past expenses or damages, or notifying consumers about their secret repair program,” the suit says.
Instead, Sony “appears to simply perform some sort of minor refurbishment” before sending a controller back to a consumer while it’s “still defective and susceptible to manifestation of the Drift Defect in the future.”
Those who do send their DualSense controllers out for repair are hit with shipping costs and left without the use of the device for “an upward of several weeks” depending on their location and the severity of the problem, according to the lawsuit.
Who’s covered by this lawsuit?
The case looks to represent all consumers in the United States who bought a PlayStation 5 or stand-alone DualSense controller, as well as a subclass consisting of Virginia residents.
How do I get involved?
For most class action lawsuits, there’s nothing you need to do to “join” or be considered part of the case. Class actions almost always take some time to work their way through the legal system, usually toward a settlement or dismissal (and sometimes to binding arbitration outside of the courtroom).
At any rate, it’s only if and when a case settles that consumers would need to take action. You can learn more about this here.
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