It's not just the 3DS that's getting full-scale digital downloads this year. Nintendo's new Wii U console will be getting the feature as well.
This means that new games released at retail on the system, at least those published by Nintendo, will also be available day-and-date to download.
Interestingly, games will be downloaded through the eShop, but consumers will be buying download codes either from a retail store or an online vendor. Nintendo says prices will be determined by those third-party vendors, which in theory at least should lead to competition and - at least occasionally - lower prices.
Financial Results Briefing [Nintendo]