In an interview with GamesIndustry.biz , EA Labels president Frank Gibeau discusses the messy SimCity launch, batting away conspiratorial accusations about its always-online structure. He says that was a decision from the creative team at Maxis, who believed they were designing an MMO, and not some corporate directive to curtail piracy. In fact, he goes further, slamming the DRM as "a failed dead-end strategy; it's not a viable strategy for the gaming business."
"DRM was never even brought up once," says Gibeau. "You don't build an MMO because you're thinking of DRM - you're building a massively multiplayer experience, that's what you're building. [...] For the folks who have conspiracy theories about evil suits at EA forcing DRM down the throats of Maxis, that's not the case at all."
He has regrets, though. He acknowledges there was a failure in communicating what the game was (and, I'd say, in then convincing players that the online elements were something they should care about). The shoddy launch was "unacceptable" too, although he points to the company's attempts to make good with free games and continued tweaks.
SimCity's problem seems to me less about its disastrous launch, and more that the fundamentally appealing parts of its design don't need any online element. Maxis may have set out to build an MMO, but I don't think the end result convinces me that I want that - and what's more frustrating than seeing the game you do want locked inside, made inaccessible?