Well, since I'm the guy with the $270 credit...
I think the warranty is the price of admission to the serious market. I don't think it needs to be a lifetime warranty, although the trend in outdoor products is in this direction. I don't expect a difference between soft and hard goods.
Imagine a product sold with absolutely no warranty (i.e.: as-is). Would you buy it? Could you inspect it well enough to be comfortable? Certainly, the price would have to be low. Over time, the product might gain a reputation, but it would take a while if people had to take a big risk buying the product. What if quality were inconsistent? Would people mail-order such a product?
Frankly, the strong warranty is there to remove doubt. There are enough barriers to purchase already. I don't want to be stuck with something that blows up after a week. The warranty is also there for good will. Brands like Patagonia, Mountain Hardwear, Marmot, etc. get points for how well they stand behind their products. And, a sufficiently long warranty is necessary if the up-sell from a $300 jacket to a $400 jacket involves "more durable materials". How else can the manufacturer prove such a claim at the point of sale?
I think one reason generous warranties are so ubiquitous is that they don't actually cost that much. Consider how few people actually seek out warranty or repair action on these products. Also consider the fine print of most warranties. Most exclude normal wear, accidents and misuse. Frankly, there's not much left and it's within the manufacturer's control to minimize.
Consider my case. I got a $270 credit, allowing me to buy a $500 Silverton jacket for $230. While that's quite cool for me, I suspect Marmot wouldn't take a loss on the jacket. Even if I got a lower cost jacket for free, you could chalk up Marmot's loss (of their production cost) to marketing and claw-back of some of the profit they made on the original jacket sale to me.
Some warranties are even less than they seem. I bought new tires with a 6-year, 50,000 mile warranty. The thing is, the warranty is pro-rated. If I have a problem after 3 years and 25,000 miles, they'll basically rebate me 50% of my purchase price towards new tires. While it's better than no warranty, it locks me into another purchase of that brand and doesn't compensate for the hassles involved.
Anyway, I like that lifetime warranties have become the standard in outdoor products. I think they give consumers a good feeling without actually being exercised very much. If I were starting a new company in this space, I'd start with a lifetime warranty, too. And if the warranty ended up costing too much, clearly I'd have messed up and should get out of the business.