Philip Orbanes was born and raised in Cape May County, New Jersey. During his adolescence, he took a strong interest in playing and inventing board and strategy games. After graduating high school in 1965, Orbanes founded Gamescience Corporation, the first of many entrepreneurial endeavors. Over the next few years, he and his partners provided game designs for companies such as Renwal Products, which bought the assets of Gamescience in 1968. Gamescience soon became Operation Design Corporation (later integrated into Orbanes’ new company, Infinity Quest Corporation). Infinity Quest focused on developing strategy games, consumer electronic programs, and puzzles. It also acquired the game magazine Strategy & Tactics. This early foray into the game industry helped to fund Orbanes’ undergraduate education at Case Western Reserve University. Throughout the 1970s, Orbanes cultivated strong relationships with other game designers, including Sid Sackson. He worked for Gamut of Games during this decade as well.
Orbanes joined Ideal Toy Corporation in 1976 as director of its games division. His initiative and acumen soon led him to Massachusetts-based Parker Brothers, where he became director of new product research in 1979. Parker Brothers named Orbanes vice president of product development in 1980, then senior vice president of research and development in 1985. During his time at Parker Brothers, Orbanes developed a reputation as an authority on the game Monopoly, serving as a chief judge at U.S. and world Monopoly tournaments. In 1990, Orbanes left Parker Brothers to establish his own consulting business. Along with three other seasoned game industry professionals, he launched another game company, Winning Moves Games, in 1995. Winning Moves, located in Danvers, Massachusetts, frequently produced classic card and board games licensed from companies such as Hasbro, Inc., the owner of Parker Brothers and Milton Bradley games. As of 2013, Orbanes serves as vice chairman of Winning Moves, following his lengthy tenure as president of the company.
In 1988, with the permission of Parker Brothers, Orbanes authored The Monopoly Companion. This book explained the oft-contended origins of the game, its colorful history, and strategies for players. He also continued to acquire his own personal collection of rare and unique versions of Monopoly, many of which appeared in subsequent books. The March 2002 issue of the Harvard Business Review published an article by Orbanes called “Everything I Know about Business I Learned from Monopoly,” prompting his renewed research on the history of Parker Brothers. He conducted interviews with members of the Parker family and former Parker Brothers employees, and gained access to George S. Parker’s personal archives. The resulting book, The Game Makers: The Story of Parker Brothers from Tiddledy Winks to Trivial Pursuit (2004), traced Parker Brothers from its 1883 inception through the start of the 21st century. He followed with Monopoly: The World’s Most Famous Game–And How It Got That Way (2006) and Monopoly, Money, and You: How to Profit from the Game’s Secrets of Success (2013).