Traditional research suggests a relationship between country-level institutions and the location choices of MNEs. However, more recent theory suggests MNEs also focus on regions (semiglobalization). Therefore, this study examines institutional effects in the context of semiglobalization by considering the influences of three formal institutions (i.e., regulatory control, political democracy, capital investments) of countries and geographic regions on MNEs' location choices of internationalization. We use a sample of Japanese MNEs operating in 45 countries within eight regions. The results show that their degree of internationalization into a country is influenced by both country and regional institutional environments. Additionally, a semiglobalization perspective provides better explanatory power than does the country-level perspective. These results present a new perspective on how MNEs consider institutional environments in their international strategy. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.