It's hard to explain the appeal of the various Truck Simulator games to someone who hasn't played them. They're almost like chill-out games, an experience where you do all the thinking at the start (your route and cargo) before relaxing for a while with the radio and watching the scenery drift by. I'm sure the actual trucking life is very different but, to me, these games are all about achieving a kind of highway zen.
Maybe the trucking life is not that different, however, because one of the biggest transportation companies in the world, Schneider National, is now looking at American Truck Simulator players… and it likes what it sees—a veritable hotbed of truck-loving talent that may well need a job, and want to try out the real thing.
American Truck Simulator now features billboards with recruitment ads dotting its virtual United States (thanks, GamesRadar+), which point players towards Schneider's careers page. And according to the developers, this is the first of what may be many.
"Even though we’ve previously used the in-game billboards to showcase a variety of exciting updates," says SCS Software in an update, "this new addition is now in the try-out phase and we believe it holds promise in offering something valuable to our games as well as the automotive industry."
SCS talks about how Schneider National fits into providing interesting organic details to the game world, before we get to the real reason. Apparently there's a lack of truck drivers, and this allows SCS Software "to assist the need of the trucking industry in general considering the current shortage of skilled professionals."
SCS says that American Truck Simulator is "the testing ground for these dynamic billboards" but, should things go well, expect to see similar rolling out across the various games in the series. The developer rather optimistically calls the ads "meaningful visual assets that go beyond traditional advertising" but there's nothing new under the sun: I remember seeing dynamic billboards for Obama's presidential campaign in Burnout Paradise. Wonder how many votes that scored him?
Player reaction is split, though I would say broadly on the positive side. Those who don't like it are the sort that don't want IRL ads in the game at all. Others appreciate the extra immersion that in-game ads can add to something like American Truck Simulator which, lest we forget, is a simulation of driving a truck across a country that rather likes a billboard. It was ATS fan Pasquale who saw through the noise, though, and saw the big picture behind SCS's announcement: "Maybe one day we could drive a real truck over the internet!"