Ever willing to push the bar when it comes to new innovations in dispelling the sort of feelings traditionally associated with that activity known as gaming, publishers are going to great lengths to attach chains to legitimate purchases in the misguided (and overwhelmingly unsupported) notion that it will prevent piracy. We've long since graduated from the days of random checks interrupting our entertainment sessions, demanding to know what the third word on the fourth paragraph in the twenty-second page of the manual was — and heaven help you if you didn't have the manual anymore, because a swift kick in the rear was the only sympathy you'd receive. CD keys and limited activations tied to specific machines have fallen out of favour, replaced by asinine things like continual internet connectivity for single player games. Almost as terrifying to publishers as piracy is the used-game industry, and to this end more and more are including one-time use codes for significant pieces of content that are only available to second-hand buyers if they pony over twenty bucks for new keys.
With this in mind, seemingly, Capcom has released a title for the Nintendo 3DS, Resident Evil: Mercenaries 3D, which has its own innovative twist on the DRM schemes of yore: the cartridge contains a single saved game file which cannot be reset or deleted, locking the player to a single route of progression through the game. No starting over, no selling it to someone else — while the game is arena-inspired and allegedly allows for high re-playability via unlocking items and upgrades through your overall score, most gamers are going to want to obtain these things themselves, customising their play experience the way they wish, and buying a title that's already half-way finished is like ordering a half-eaten croissant at a bakery.
Muddying things further are the half-hearted denials from Capcom that this limitation was not included to dissuade used-game sales at all; some statements have gone so far as to suggest that this is some sort of technical issue imposed by the 3DS because the saved game data is stored on the cartridge directly. Last I checked, we're no longer living in 1981, and if that were truly the case it would beg the question as to why Capcom is the only developer to encounter the issue thus far.
While this latest move relates to their games on a handheld device, Capcom treats the PC platform no differently. They've long supported much-maligned SecuROM to protect against piracy on the PC, even going so far as to package up Steam-sold titles like Flock and Street Fighter IV in three layers of DRM: SecuROM, Steamworks and five-machine-activation limits. Publishers like Electronic Arts and Ubisoft have included their own draconian content-protection mechanisms on their PC titles and it's not a stretch to ruminate that they'll be looking at ways to implement Capcom's bright idea here however they can.
This design decision is all the more puzzling given the issues that arose for the company following the widely-publicised PSN hacker-takedown. Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 requires a constant PSN connection (similar to what Ubisoft did with Assassin's Creed 2 on PC) in order to play the single player game. When Sony's network infrastructure was taken offline, paying customers lost access to legitimate purchases completely. Given Capcom's complaints about what the outage was costing them, one would think they would try to avoid doing things that would incise their consumer base as well. While a single player handheld game (so far, at least) saving content to a single file is not quite the same as constant online access to play single player titles, these saved game files can and often do get corrupted and Capcom has been cagey on what steps have been taken to ensure the customer doesn't end up with a piece of expensive, useless plastic if they encounter this issue.
In the end, these DRM schemes have a creeping effect: Ubisoft's always-on DRM found its way into PSN titles and DRM schemes from consoles often find their way back onto the PC. As long as publishers feel as if they can get away with this encroachment, it will continue to be an issue they have no disincentive to cease.