Homebrew solves the Nintendo Switch's biggest flaw: Its controllers.
Over the last two decades, I've amassed a number of game controllers. Most of them are essentially useless once their exclusive system goes out of fashion. Even as controller layouts and connections have converged, this trend of controller exclusivity has continued. Of the three major platforms, each has minor variations and they almost always refuse to support existing controllers, even from their previous platform. There were some exceptions like:
- PlayStation 2 supported PlayStation controllers.
- PlayStation 3 supported USB DInput controllers.
- Wii supported GameCube controllers.
- WiiU supported Wii controllers.
- Xbox Series supports Xbox One controllers.
Outside of those exception, the situation sucks. It's a lot of e-waste and a lot of money. Official controllers cost over £40 and the RRP rises every generation. They're barely any different and, as someone that plays a lot of couch multiplayer, buying 4 or more controllers every generation, repairing them, replacing them, add on the stick drift issues plaguing all of the current generation's controllers, and it just isn't viable.
So what's the solution? To avoid the waste, I've moved almost entirely over to PC gaming. Since it's an open platform, drivers exist to support pretty much any choice of hardware and software.
There is one problem: I still buy the latest Nintendo consoles; even the WiiU. Not only does Nintendo make some of the best single player games, they also have some of the best couch multiplayer games.
Backwards compatibility wasn't much of an issue with Nintendo for over 15 years across GameCube, Wii and WiiU. But with the Switch, Nintendo started a clean slate; so all of my peripherals became useless. Worst of all, Nintendo's Joy Con controllers have the worst stick drift known to man and I frequently have connection issues. Given this situation, I'm not so confident about their Pro controller either. Even if I was, buying 4+ of them for couch multiplayer is just burning money. Third-party controllers have other issues and similar price points so that's not an option either.
For a while, I was just stuck. I had to buy new Joy Cons and repair existing ones when possible at my own expense. At some point, I gave up and we just played with the drift. Yes, the kart keeps turning the wrong direction. Yes, you keep doing the wrong special move. We all know why at this point. Nintendo refuses to permanently fix the issue after over 6 years of it, so this is the Nintendo experience now.
On a random day, I discovered Mission Control. -- I wasn't even looking for it. YouTube recommended a random homebrew video which I used as background noise, it briefly mentioned it and caught my ear. This was the same week I found my under-used WiiU Pro Controller and bemoaned how I can't use it on the Switch. I didn't run it through the internet so I'm still trying to figure out how Google found out. Are they listening?
Mission Control is a homebrew app which runs in the background and lets the Switch support a wide range of Bluetooth controllers. This includes previous Nintendo controllers, PlayStation controllers and some Xbox controllers. Unfortunately, it doesn't support Xbox Series controllers yet, which would be convenient alongside a PC setup, but it might do at some point.
For now, I can re-use my WiiU Pro Controller. It's perfect for the Switch. Button layout and all. I also love the WiiU's layout, having both sticks at the top makes so much sense for 3D games where you need to move and control the camera at the same time. And having the buttons along the bottom makes playing retro games a lot more natural. The 80 hour battery life on it is insane and it's ultra lightweight. Add some analogue triggers, maybe a few bumper buttons on the back, and it'd be the perfect controller.
For guests, they don't need to use those tiny sideways drifting Joy Cons any more. They can use whatever of the last 15 years of controllers I have, or bring their own, even a PlayStation 5 controller would work. The only downside is the button mappings and telling people which buttons do what, which was a problem with sideways Joy Cons anyway.
It's mind-blowingly liberating to use any controller on a major platform. All thanks to the individuals who have painstakingly reverse engineered the Switch to the point where such things are now possible. I just wish I discovered it sooner.
At the end of the day, this is still a workaround limited to a small number of Switches. Much like USB-C standards on phones and computers, game platforms must agree on a cross-platform controller solution sooner rather than later. One that provides a baseline which cross-platform developers can target, while leaving room for first-party innovation and, in the case of stick drift, first-party negligence.
Until then, homebrew solves the Nintendo Switch's biggest flaw: Its controllers.
Thanks for reading.