While you don’t have to buy SimCity through Origin, you will have to play it through Origin. This means that yes, SimCity is just another game in a line of casualties to DRM.
Update: GameSpy has reported that EA confirmed you will need to be connected to the internet via Origin in order to start playing SimCity, but if you lose connection, you will not be kicked out of the game. It’s a process analogous to Steam’s offline mode.
DRM (digital rights management) is an attempt by some game developers and publishers (especially EA) to prevent people from pirating their games by requiring them to be constantly connected to the internet, limiting how players are able to purchase their product, or limiting the amount of times a player can download or install their product. Some games take this a step further and require players to download parts of the game as they go, thus requiring a constant internet connection.
SimCity seems to be turning to DRM due to its emphasis on multiplayer. Players will need to be playing through the Origin platform in order to retrieve the multiplayer stats and data, including the global economy. While players will still be able to play SimCity in a single player capacity by setting their game to “private” (according to this interview with Shacknews), Maxis and EA seem to frown on this style of play and prefer their players to contribute to the multiplayer experience. (Setting a game to “private” is like activating the “offline mode” in Steam.)
According to the previews coming out, SimCity seems to be a great game. It’s a shame they had to mar it by forcing players to play it through Origin. I was seriously thinking of rekindling my love of this series by buying SimCity, but now I think I’ll have to pass. I’m not a huge fan of multiplayer and I really don’t want to have to download Origin.