Mar 20, 2015 · 4 minutes

In the annual report Warren Buffett writes to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, he's taken to warning about the ABC's of business decay: arrogance, bureaucracy and complacency. Woe to the company that drifts into these swamps, because it can take years to escape them.

Every once in a while, a company finds a CEO who can turn things around quickly. That was the case with Electronic Arts, the 33-year-old company that is so mature by the standards of Silicon Valley it's name actually sounded cutting edge when it was founded. EA, though, has Andrew Wilson at the helm, the rare CEO who can rejuvenate a tech veteran in a fast-changing market.

Wilson, who joined EA in 2000 and rose up through its sports brands, was named EA's CEO in September 2013, following several lean years for the company. After EA peaked at $67 a share in 2005, it slumped to as low as $11 a share in 2012. Even as mobile games grew in popularity, EA's response was to draw more dollars from its existing franchises, alienating legions of gamers in the process.

Customer anger boiled over when EA was voted the worst company in America by Consumerist readers not once, but twice. Wilson realized that previous efforts to mollify disgruntled gamers weren't enough and vowed to make the company “player first.” He offered more free games with in-app purchases, began previewing games earlier in development, and releasing public betas earlier to get a read on user feedback. Games also weren't released until they were fully baked, even if it meant missing a release date.

Gamers can be a hard lot to please, but it took Wilson about a year to put the “worst company” episode in EA's past, dispelling the pall of arrogance that had surrounded EA. But the company had another constituency to appease, the teams of developers that EA had amassed by buying up and coming studios. Many ended up feeling shoehorned into a stifling culture of departmental silos established in an earlier era.

To address such bureaucratic sclerosis, Wilson took a restructuring effort that began under his predecessor John Riccitiello and honed it toward his goal of putting the player first. “No longer could we operate within silos at the company, it couldn't be development on one side and marketing on the other side or sales, or finance. We actually had to work together,” Wilson said at a gaming conference last year. Now, studios that work on separate but related projects like FIFA and Madden titles share expertise and technology rather than working in isolation.

Yet there remained the third specter of Buffett's business decay: the complacency of a company in a gaming market that was going through rapid change. EA continues to develop games for Xbox and Playstation consoles, including legacy versions, but has pushed into mobile games and free-to-play, micro-transaction-based games on PCs. Many of the more popular franchises appear on both, as the various platforms converge.

“Great games work no matter what platform you’re on or what business model that you’re going with,” Wilson told Fortune magazine last year. One significant shift is the move away from packaged, disc-based games bought in retail stores to games delivered over landline or mobile networks. In its last quarter, EA's digital revenue rose 34 percent to $693 million and now accounts for about half of its total revenue.

EA remains primarily a developer of games for Xbox and Playstation consoles, with two thirds of its revenue coming from those platforms and with the company ranking as the top game publisher for both of those consoles in 2014. Revenue from mobile games grew 29 percent in the last nine months and as the displays on smartphones grow richer and larger the expertise EA has on console games could become more of an asset.

For now, console games are delivering plenty of growth. EA's fiscal year ends this month, and analysts are expecting its earnings per share to rise 41 percent to $2.38 a share for the full year. Much of that has to do the company's ability to recover from the glitch-plagued launch of Battlefield 4, which Wilson and others swear the company has learned hard lessons from.

That promise is being put to the test this week with EA's launch of Battlefield Hardline. There have been reports of server problems and a DDoS attack, but for the most part Battlefield Hardline has had a fairly smooth launch accompanied by mixed but mostly positive reviews.

EA delayed the game's release from last year after beta testing with users revealed complaints that the company worked to address for this week's release. The company has other games on tap this year, including several new mobile games as well as Star Wars Battlefront, set for release alongside the coming Star Wars movie in December.

Success is always an uncertain prospect in the video-game industry. But 18 months into Wilson's tenure at EA, the company has chased out the cultural problems that had plagued it for much of the past decade. At $55 a share, EA's stock has yet to break through the $67 peak reached ten years ago. At least now it has a shot at reaching that next level.