Nintendo getting on-board with digital distribution is such big news. Granted, Nintendo may seem a bit late to the party when compared with Microsoft and Sony, but it's not like they were exactly pioneers of the medium either.
We like to think that buying things digitally and either downloading or streaming them to our consoles is a modern invention, that it somehow classifies this era as futuristic or technologically advanced, but the truth is that digital distribution and stream-based gaming has been around since the dawn of time.
Well, very nearly, at any rate. In 1981, the PlayCable system was introduced for the Intellivision, allowing cable television subscribers to download games (up to four whole kilobytes!) into a special cartridge. Two years later, the CVC GameLine service was launched for the Atari 2600, allowing subscribers to download games via 1200 baud modem into a massive, silver "Master Module" cartridge.
If either of these services sound familiar, it's because the same basic premise was used just over 10 years later by the Sega Channel in 1994. So comparatively, when Microsoft launched the original Xbox Live Arcade in 2004, it was already 20 or so years behind the times.