A free game isn't going to entice me into purchasing a game that forces me to be online to play single player and, much more seriously in my opinion, doesn't allow me to save my game locally. That part is even worse to me than the always-online requirement. But I suppose it's a nice gesture for those who already own the game and insist on toughing it out.
If the service worked 100% of the time and I could play seamlessly AS IF I was playing locally, I wouldn't mind that the game featured always online DRM (or always-online functionality of any kind.) But the fact that it doesn't and has been causing people to lose saves left and right (seriously, the number of people talking about losing ten to fifteen hours of progress makes my head hurt) because you can't save the game locally guarantees I will never buy this game personally.
I had an interesting discussion with a former Iron Lore developer (Titan Quest) about his company going under due to piracy and how this might have kept them alive. I am sensitive to that side of things as well. I think the reality is that, while many gamers inadequately show it, we all love and want to support the people who make the games we love. The LAST thing we want to see is for them to lose their livelihood, or for a group of people they love and respect to have to part ways and lose a ton of money and independence because pirates stole their product more than people bought the game. So I can totally understand the need to protect IP and one's business. And I would almost be willing to fully accept always-online DRM for a smaller studio with a game not expected to sell so much that it would impact playability.
But if a game is going to sell millions of units (or downloads) like SimCity in all likelihood already has or will, I feel very strongly as well that the publisher should support the infrastructure for the game sufficiently that no matter many people buy the game, they're all able to enjoy it. This isn't an MMO (no matter how much they want to pass it off as one.) It's a multi-decade staple of PC gaming, and a game that should make people want to buy a PC to play it. Not make them fear PC gaming because things like this seem to happen with virtually every popular game launch nowadays.
Online DRM isn't the problem inherently. (In fact, there's a lot more going on in this game than just DRM that owes to the online nature of the game.) If it worked, I honestly wouldn't care. I'd probably be playing the game right now. The limited city size broken up over regions does bug me, but it looks like fundamentally fun game design and a challenge. And it looks engrossing, as SimCity should be in my opinion. But I cannot and will not give one red cent to a company that forces me to be online to play single player, let alone to save my game. Because this launch proves that if there's ever an issue with their servers, or they ever decide to end support for the game years down the road, I won't be ale to play. Period.
Meanwhile, Cities XL and SimCity 4 continue to run fine on my system. Games I will remember and be able to play for years. It's a real concern to me. What can I say? I don't hate EA or its employees, and I certainly don't hate Maxis. I respect and appreciate their work and what they've done for the industry in terms of growth, no matter how much I disagree with what they're doing. But seeing this become a new industry standard, a "new normal" as it were, is a bitter pill to swallow for someone who's been gaming for nearly three decades. I just can't bring myself to accept it.