When the Wii came out in 2006, the style guide for the brand made the declaration that it should be called “simply Wii, not Nintendo Wii,” making it the first Nintendo console to not include “Nintendo” in the name.

Most companies would kill for the sort of name recognition, and yet for reasons unknown they wanted to slightly distance their name from the Wii. Today the Wii is a successful brand in its own right, but one that everyone assumed Nintendo would move on from with their next console, as they’ve done with every previous one. Instead, it appears that perhaps they’re following Sony and Microsoft’s lead, and creating a “sequel” console rather than a new “Nintendo.”

Unfortunately, this is already leading to brand confusion, with many people understandably believing the Wii U to be just another Wii peripheral. Even a usually knowledgeable source like CNET initially reported today: “At E3 2011, Nintendo unveils its new iPad-like game controller called the Wii U, due out in 2012.”

And who could blame them, when very little was shown of the console itself, most of the focus being on the innovative new controller. It raises questions as to how Nintendo is even going to be able to indicate the difference in system peripherals via packaging design, when the Wii and Wii U logo are identical other than a little blue box. Wii controllers will work with the Wii U, of course, but how many retailers are going to have the experience of customers buying only the controller, and returning later to complain that they can’t get it to work with their Wii?

It probably would’ve been a much smarter idea to part with the Wii name entirely. In particular, Nintendo had a real opportunity here to show “core” gamers that they were serious about getting them back, by returning to the naming scheme they followed with their first three consoles (the Nintendo, Super Nintendo, and Nintendo 64) and calling it simply the Nintendo HD. It’s not like the generation of kids who grew up with the Wii are unaware with the name of the company who makes it, so how would that not have been a win-win scenario?