Video-game software giant

Electronic Arts

(ERTS)

plans to take a 19.9% stake in French rival Ubisoft.

The investment will come through a block purchase of Ubisoft shares from Talpa Beheer BV. EA did not disclose how much it is paying for the Ubisoft shares. Citing sources close to the deal,

The Wall Street Journal

on Monday reported that EA is paying between $85 million and $100 million.

Talpa approached EA about buying its stake, said Jeff Brown, spokesman for EA.

"We knew this block of shares was going to come on the market," Brown said. EA decided to buy it "in order to protect our options in the future. If

Ubisoft decided to merge, this group of shares could be important in that process."

The investment does not necessarily mean that EA will try to acquire Ubisoft outright, however, Brown said.

"We haven't given any thought to that yet," he said.

The deal is subject to regulatory approval in both the U.S. and Europe, Brown said. He had no estimate on when the deal would be approved.

Ubisoft publishes a popular series of video games developed with novelist Tom Clancy, including

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell

.

EA's agreement to purchase the Ubisoft shares comes as the video-game industry is about to undergo one of its periodic console transitions. The next generation of platforms is expected as early as the next holiday season, and analysts are predicting that development costs for them will skyrocket. In the meantime, publishers could see slower sales over the next couple of years as prices decline for the older generation games.

Amid those expectations, consolidation has been growing in the video-game industry as publishers look to diversify their lineups and improve their development tools.

Midway Games

(MWY)

, for instance, has purchased three smaller developers this year, including Paradox Development

last month. In July, EA

acquired Criterion Software, the developer behind

Burnout

and the creator of RenderWare, an important software development tool.