According to a report by Kotaku. A former supervisor of New York-based United Radio, the company that partners with Nintendo to fix broken devices, said Kotaku that the high volume of Joy-Con repairs resulted in a high turnover rate and “a lot” of errors.
United Radio is its own company – Nintendo merely acts as a middleman, handling customer communications and leaving the repair to United Radio, which serves Nintendo customers located in the eastern half of the United States. The ubiquity of Joy-Con drift led to “easily thousands” of Joy-Cons that passed through United Radio in a single week, and prompted the company to implement a dedicated workstation for the repairing Joy-Cons, the former supervisor said. Kotaku.
Joy-Con drift is a widespread issue that causes controllers to grab movement when there isn’t one, which often manifests when your character moves around the screen when you’re not touching your thumbsticks. Although many Switch owners hoped the new OLED model would fix Joy-Con drift, the problem persists and Nintendo itself has suggested it may never be fixed. In 2019, Nintendo started repairing the Joy-Con drift for free, even with an expired warranty.
According to Kotaku, United Radio hires many temporary workers through the placement company Aerotek. The workers would be eligible to be hired as full-time employees of United Radio after three months on the job. However, the former supervisor said Kotaku that most temporary employees quit work after two and a half months, simply didn’t show up for work, or were fired. This would have made it difficult to assemble a team of experienced workers, which would inevitably lead to mistakes. In one example of such errors, a customer on Reddit said their Switch was returned with someone else’s save data. There are many other complaints online, citing faulty repairs, missing components, or damage to their system.
A high turnover rate wasn’t the only issue contributing to repair errors — a language barrier also posed problems, the former supervisor said. Kotaku. Supervisor says they were the only English speaker at work which made it difficult to train employees. Bilingual workers often should have “served as a liaison” to relay information between the trainer and the trainee.
Tight turnaround times didn’t help resolve these issues either. The former supervisor said Kotaku that United Radio would simply replace all broken Joy-Cons from 2017 to 2018. After that time, workers would have been required to repair 90% of Joy-Cons within four days of receiving them. It is unclear if these policies were mandated by Nintendo. The edge contacted Nintendo with a request for comment but did not immediately respond.
Like Kotaku notes, Nintendo doesn’t just rely on contracted employees to carry out repairs. Former and current employees of Nintendo’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington, said Kotaku that Nintendo employs temporary workers for 11-month cycles with a two-month (or more) break in between, with employees losing access to health care during that window. Earlier this week, a former Nintendo employee filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, claiming they were fired by Nintendo and recruitment agency Aston Carter for trying to organize a union.