Ford began promoting its vehicles in video games with the 1995 release of Sega Rally, and since then the automaker has included its wares in over 250 million distributed racing and driving games.

The latest of these is the upcoming Need For Speed: The Run, which is set to hit the market on November 15. Ford will have four of its products in this game, including the Shelby Super Snake and the Taurus SHO-based Ford Police Interceptor.

It isn’t only Ford who’s betting that virtual performance can lead to real-world sales, either. Porsche has an exclusive arrangement with Electronic Arts (EA), the publisher of the Need For Speed franchise, to feature it’s cars in EA games.

Honda and Nissan fare well in the latest driving simulation games, too, and their products are often aimed squarely at the 15-35 year old male demographic that buys driving simulators.

Newer games, such as Gran Turismo 5 and Forza Motorsports 4 feature relatively accurate physics, so players get a good feel for how a virtual car will accelerate, corner and brake in real life.

The New York Times cites Ford’s success with video game product marketing, attributing a 36-percent increase in brand rating and a 28-percent increase in purchase consideration to that automaker’s presence in EA games.

GM also calls video game product marketing effective, although it lacks the hard numbers reported by Ford.

Those hard numbers are exceedingly difficult to translate into showroom sales, but anything that increases brand awareness and brand image has to help. Besides, it’s hard to beat the convenience of a virtual test drive from the comfort of your own living room.