A strange patent application Nintendo filed in Japan has fans guessing at its purpose, even before the necessary speculation of whether it’ll actually become a peripheral people can buy for the Switch. But there it is, a pair of Joy-Cons with a hinge.
The hinge flips the upper portion of each Joy-Con (left thumbstick on the left; face buttons on the right) downward, or away from the user, at about a 20 to 30 degree angle (eyeballing here). Shown against the natural posture of a hand with its thumb in the stick, this seems to be an ergonomic improvement.
There appears to be a second design with the bottom of the controller slightly angled as well, for extra ergonomic grippiness. The Joy-Con retains a straight inner railing so that it still attaches to a standard Nintendo Switch unit. And since the dock’s housing doesn’t extend past the screen’s width, that’s of no concern for a Switch fitted with a couple of these.
Images further down the patent application show that this is a moving hinge, with the Joy-Con locking flat for use in its traditional detached, two-player way. Connected, I suppose this would be for power users who do most of their playing handheld and want a better grip on their unit (snicker snicker).
Commenters in this Reddit thread bring up the fact the Joy-Cons are already so small that a revision doesn’t leave much space to do new things. The upcoming Nintendo Switch Lite, whose controllers cannot be separated, had to toss out HD rumble and the infrared motion camera, because of the smaller footprint. A hinge might sacrifice some other functionality, too.
So if it ever comes to market, this could be more of a novelty than a new standard for the Switch’s official controllers. Why not, even at $79.99 for a set, plenty of folks have multiple Joy-Cons for no reason other than the different colors are appealing. The latest info we have on new Joy-Cons concerns new shades available Oct. 4 (for a total of 11 official colors). There’s also the matter of “Joy-Con drift,” which Nintendo is quietly offering to fix for free. One presumes that whatever causes that phantom input would be addressed in these new designs.