PS5 DualSense drift: What it is, how to fix it, and everything you need to know

Dualsense Ps5 Hzd Comic Analog
Dualsense Ps5 Hzd Comic Analog (Image credit: Jennifer Locke / Android Central)

DualSense drift is becoming an increasingly ugly problem for PlayStation. After Nintendo already found itself in hot water for Joy-Con drift on the Nintendo Switch, people have discovered that the PS5 controller isn't immune to the same issue. Whether it affects you right now or not, it's a serious problem that could potentially cause your controller to be unusable. We'll explain everything you need to know about DualSense drift, including what it is, why it happens, if there's a fix for it, and more.

Currently, Sony is facing a lawsuit in the United States due to DualSense drift. We'll keep track of how this case pans out and explain the case's ramifications for the company and customers.

DualSense drift explained What it is and why it happens

Dualsense Ps5 Ps Button

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In the context of controllers, drift (also known as joystick drift, thumbstick drift, or analog stick drift) is when a thumbstick registers input when there is none, causing your character or cursor to move on-screen. Depending on the severity and frequency, this drift can range from a minor annoyance to a problem that makes all of your games unplayable. Imagine if your computer cursor slowly drifted across the screen even when you're not touching your mouse. That's what can happen to a thumbstick on a controller, and what is happening to the DualSense.

To make it simple and to avoid overcomplicating things for people less familiar with the technology involved, drift happens predominately because of sensor wear and fatigue. In a DualSense controller, the thumbsticks are soldered to the main controller board and are connected to potentiometers that detect movement. Over time, these potentiometers can wear down due to friction. Not only that, but other parts like the spring-loaded self-centering mechanism can stretch, causing inaccurate readings.

While companies test their materials stringently, they sometimes won't use longer lasting materials in order to keep the price of the product down, and it doesn't help that players will rotate the thumbsticks thousands of times in an average play session. If you look at iFixit's DualSense teardown, they explain the cause of drift in-depth and why it only gets worse over time.

How to fix DualSense drift

Dualsense On Fabric

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Unfortunately there isn't an easy fix for DualSense drift. You'd need to diagnose the problem — find out specifically which component is malfunctioning — and take apart the controller to replace it. This just isn't feasible for most people. The best thing you can do if it becomes a problem is send it into Sony to take care of it, assuming it's under warranty.

What is Sony doing about DualSense drift?

Ps5 Dualsense Reflection

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Sony has yet to acknowledge the problem officially and it's unknown how widespread of an issue it is. Currently if your controller is still under warranty you can send it to Sony for a fix through its repair website. If you bought your controller used, you'll need to contact the retailer that you purchased it from to see what your options are.

Everyone who sets up a PS5 must agree to Sony's terms and conditions with a forced arbitration clause that limits your potential legal actions, but impending lawsuits may change what Sony does going forward.

DualSense drift lawsuits

Dualsense Trigger Closeup

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Law firm Chimicles Schwartz Kriner & Donaldson-Smith LLP (CSK&D), which had previously filed a class action suit against Nintendo for the Switch's Joy-Con drift, has filed a class action lawsuit against Sony for DualSense drift. The suit alleges that Sony was aware of DualSense drift before the controller released and chose not to disclose it to the public. It then goes on to call Sony's actions "unfair, deceptive, unlawful, and fraudulent," and says the defect "compromises the DualSense Controller's core functionality."

As a result of Sony's unfair, deceptive, and/or fraudulent business practices, owners of DualSense Controllers, including Plaintiff, have suffered an ascertainable loss, injury in fact, and otherwise have been harmed by Sony's conduct. 11. Accordingly, Plaintiff brings this action to redress Sony's violations of state consumer fraud statutes, breach of warranty, and unjust enrichment. Plaintiff seeks monetary relief for damages suffered, declaratory relief, and public injunctive relief.

While console setup requires people to agree to a forced arbitration clause, Sony does allow people to manually opt-out within 30 days if a letter is written to the company. CSK&D is encouraging PS5 users to fill out an opt-out template on its website that it will then send to Sony on a claimants' behalf.

The lawsuit filed by CSK&D may be the first against Sony, but it also may not be the last. Nintendo is facing a few lawsuits regarding Joy-Con drift and we could very well see more companies step forward against Sony.

DualSense features

Dualsense Ps5 Horizon Zero Dawn Comic

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It's a shame that people are experiencing problems with drift because the DualSense is a technological marvel when it works correctly. Though the thumbsticks themselves are nothing special, the controller has a lot to offer in other areas. Two of its most notable features, haptic feedback and adaptive triggers, truly change your gaming experience. Astro's Playroom serves as a tech showcase that demonstrates these features wonderfully.

Haptic feedback

Haptic feedback is a more advanced form of rumble technology, the vibrations you feel in your controller. On a DualSense these are so precise with their feedback that, in Astro's Playroom for instance, you can feel when it is raining versus hailing in-game. All of this is to create a more immersive experience.

Per Sony:

With haptics, you truly feel a broader range of feedback, so crashing into a wall in a race car feels much different than making a tackle on the football field. You can even get a sense for a variety of textures when running through fields of grass or plodding through mud.

Adaptive triggers

Adaptive triggers allow players to feel resistance and tension when pressing a trigger to mimic their in-game actions. For instance if you're drawing back a bowstring, you may feel resistance on the trigger as you press down. The tension can vary in minute ways depending on the game. In a game like Control, you can tell which gun you are using because each feels different when you pull the trigger.

PS5 accessories

Pulse 3d Headset Ps Symbol

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While the DualSense is the only official controller you can use with PS5 right now, there are other accessories that Sony offers like the Pulse 3D wireless headset, DualSense charging station, HD camera, and media remote. If you're looking into third-party options, then you'll want to check out our list of the best PS5 headsets you can buy.

Eventually Sony may partner with a company to create an officially licensed controller that isn't the DualSense — after all, we've seen companies like Razer and Scuf do just that for the PS4 — but we'll need to wait for any potential products to hit the market to see how they stack up.

Jennifer Locke
Games Editor - PlayStation, Android, VR

Jennifer Locke has been playing video games nearly her entire life. You can find her posting pictures of her dog and obsessing over PlayStation and Xbox, Star Wars, and other geeky things.