Interview with Liran Erez of SNIPE for XnTouch!

Kickstarter, SNIPE shooter game, working during a conflict in Israel...my exclusive interview with Liran Erez, Co-Founder of XnTouch.

I had the wonderful pleasure of speaking with Liran Erez, Co-Founder and Chief of Marketing of XnTouch, regarding their Kickstarter and innovative new game SNIPE. I learned that Mr. Erez is driven by his love of creativity and vision to enhance the user experience on touchscreen devices. He’s a grounded individual who calls himself a “dreamer” with a motto of “to invent, you need great imagination and a pile of junk.” His favorite super hero is also Batman!

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Along with learning about SNIPE and the team, I also learned what it’s like to work in Israel during the current conflict. I must say it was an eye-opener for me since I’m here in the United States and I cannot imagine what it’s like to work under such duress. Despite the conditions, Mr. Erez is optimistic for the company’s future.

How did you come up with the idea for SNIPE?

While we developed Fruit Ninja‘s SliceSwords we created a unique electro-conductive material that can integrate with any touchscreen device at the place of touch. Our unique material is soft, safe for the screen and has great conductivity that enables it to interact with the screen without the need in human touch as grounding. Once we figured out that we have something special in our hands, we thought what can be done with this technology (if you want to read more on the technology, visit here – www.snipedarts.com/how-does-it-works). As shooter games fanatics, we had no doubt that creating a one-of-a-kind shooting experience for touch screen devices is the ultimate goal for our technology. SNIPE, as we see it, is the perfect blend of these two worlds, the digital gaming on one hand, and the physical shooting experience on the other.

What has been the most unexpected reaction from a player who was interacting with the game?

Until now, SNIPE was tested by tens of people from the ages 14 to 35. We noticed that both youth and adults have enjoyed playing with SNIPE, although each requires different game and difficulty levels to fit his aiming skills and instincts. The most interesting reaction we got so far, was probably made by one of the adults who tested the product and said it is as challenging as real-life shooting, but in your living room ๐Ÿ™‚

Given the sometimes sordid history of peripheral and electronic ‘interaction’ (i.e. screens and controllers meeting with tragic results), how hard do you think it will be for players to adapt to shooting things at their expensive game displays?

No doubt that with SNIPE we’re offering an unusual gaming experience, and therefore we need to take the time for players to adopt it. We’re patient, and positive that eventully people would understand that SNIPE is as safe as it gets for the touchscreen (read more on safety here – www.snipedarts.com/darts_safety).

Do the darts work in any foam dart gun, or just in the Blaster peripheral?

Our darts are designed to work with standard NERF blasters that use front-loading. Also our own blasters are perfect for our darts and gaming needs, and we hope to develop better blasters and magazine applicable darts in the future as SNIPE evolves.

You’ve made interactive swords and now blasters – what’s next?

Interactive missiles of course ๐Ÿ™‚ No. just kidding… we always laugh that we are actually a weapons development company for kids, but the truth is that we dare to interact physical with digital in this one-dimensional gaming world, and in our minds (boys minds) there is nothing more fun and exciting then weaponry toys to start with. We still don’t know what is our next development, as we first want to succeed with SNIPE‘s introduction to the world.

What made you decide to turn to Kickstarter?

Those are difficult markets the toys and games markets, and with SNIPE we decided that before we invest a lot of money in mass production, we’ll test the market’s needs and desires with this venture.This way, we can create a better product that answers our consumer’s vision form day one.

What makes your team special?

Our team is a collection of different kind of professionals. We have a product development team of experts that is being led by a partner company of ours called Quattro-D. Also, we have an american online distribution channel that sell our Fruit Ninja product online and manage our stock and warehouse in the united states. As for IP we partnered with a strong player that is responsible on protecting our patents and trade marks worldwide. We have a professional and leading mass production factory in Asia that manages all of our production, from prototyping to QA and production of thousands of products a month. Last but not least, Idan, Sean and myself, who established this company two years ago, are leading XnTouch managing-wise while taking care of marketing and business strategy.

May I ask what is it like working under “those conditions” occurring in Israel?

We are used to having some terror attacks from Palestine and a few rockets launched at us every day, but usually it’s only on the southern part of Israel, next to the Gaza Strip. But this time things are different, Hamas has some new rockets that can reach up to 150km from the strip, so cities like Tel Aviv (where we are located) and even Haifa, are under attack of over 150 missiles a day. We are not used to being in this situation. It’s not normal for us. Currently people are locked in their homes most of the day, running to the shelters whenever the alarm start (in Tel Aviv you have 1:30 min to take cover before the missiles hit, but in southern areas you only have 15 sec!). Business places in the city are closed. Kids on summer vacation can’t go out of their houses. Our company doesn’t work properly for the moment. Some employees have been recruited for the reserved units of the IDF in case this fight will increase into a war, so eventually we can’t operate as we use to, and therefore considering our next step with the Kickstarter campaign.

Is there constant fear for your safety and those of your employees?

There is constant fear for everyone for the moment. Families, friends, employees, and partners. But we know we have a strong army to protect us. The problem is that you have to stay in your home so you could reach the underground shelter fast enough, so people are working from their houses next to their children and wives preparing for the next bomb. Let me clarify, I’m not thinking that in Gaza it is all good… They get bombed harder by us every time after they attack, but our army is doing its best to only take down terrorist targets (the problem is that those terrorists use innocent people there as human shields). I hope that this fight will be over soon and that peace can be reached, but I honestly believe that if the only democracy in the Middle East is under attack by well known terrorists that set a goal to destroy it, we should do whatever is neccesary to protect our freedom and our citizens safety.

Have you considered moving the company?

Of course. But even if we move all of our team to the US, in times of war in Israel most of us will have to come back to join the IDF reserved units. The reason is that in Israel, serving the army is mandatory for 3 years (18-21) and then automatically you are placed in reserved units. 

If you decide to cancel due to the conflict with no end in sight, what is the future for SNIPE?

If we decide to cancel the campaign it is because the situation has escalated in the last couple of days, and therefore we can’t work. Usually this conflict is not that intense, and we can work while small attacks happen, but this time we’re talking about hundreds of attacks a day.

It saddens me to hear that you are working under such duress. I cannot imagine what that is like. Thank you again for taking the time you have to answer my questions. I pray for your safety and of those around you.

If you’re looking for something a bit different, SNIPE is definitely an option – just be sure to keep a firm grip on the Blaster so the darts are the only flying peripheral in your living room. There’s still time to become one of their backers on Kickstarter with many levels of sponsorship to choose from.


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Author
Image of Venisia Gonzalez
Venisia Gonzalez
Venisia is a public relations professional, video game industry contractor, published author, freelance entertainment journalist, copy editor, a co-organizer of the Latinx Games Festival, and a member of the Latinx in Gaming and the Puerto Rico Game Developers (PRGD) community. Her passion is video games. She loves the adrenaline rush from a multiplayer match and understands the frustrations of a brand-new raid. Venisia finds immense value in gaming especially in the realm of mental health.