That doesn't make sense. Why should I initialize those properties when I plan to return nil?

According to Chris Lattner this is a bug. Here is what he says:

This is an implementation limitation in the swift 1.1 compiler, documented in the release notes. The compiler is currently unable to destroy partially initialized classes in all cases, so it disallows formation of a situation where it would have to. We consider this a bug to be fixed in future releases, not a feature.

Source

EDIT:

So swift is now open source and according to this changelog it is fixed now in snapshots of swift 2.2

Designated class initializers declared as failable or throwing may now return nil or throw an error, respectively, before the object has been fully initialized.